Startup Guide: Tampa Bay

Dan Holahan
Jan 19 · 8 min read

Whether you’re already in Tampa Bay or thinking about relocating to this fantastic region, use this guide as a first glance into the exciting and growing startup ecosystem in Tampa Bay.

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Downtown Tampa (top left), Busch Gardens, Tampa Nature Preserve, Downtown St. Pete (bottom right)

If you’re looking for more resources outside of Tampa Bay and in the Southeast, make sure to head to buildinse.com.

Build In SE is an organization with a mission to increase the number of startup success stories in the Southeast by leveraging a cross-regional collaborative network.

Florida’s Bay Area

Tampa Bay (Tampa-St. Petersburg) is a rapidly growing waterfront region on the west coast of central Florida, which provides easy access to the state’s countless assets (yes, that includes a short drive to Disney World…). It’s home to 2.8 million residents, 5 colleges and universities, world-class beaches, stunning subtropical nature, and rich immigrant history. With so much to love, it’s easy to understand why nearly 40,000 newcomers make Tampa Bay their home each year.

Additionally, Tampa and St. Pete each offer a distinct yet complementary identity that makes the Tampa Bay area an attractive place for startup builders and supporters to thrive professionally and personally. The region has been named a top emerging tech ecosystem and a great place to work in tech.

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Historic Ybor City

Tampa Bay Capital Landscape

Venture deals are on the rise, nearly doubling in the last 5 years. Florida’s attractive tax laws have fostered a density of angel networks and venture firms in Tampa Bay. According to the Southeast Capital Landscape, Tampa Bay is home to 16 firms, with the majority focused on pre-seed and seed investments. Similar to our friends throughout the Southeast, Tampa Bay has the exciting challenge of cultivating later-stage funding sources to ensure that companies continue to have access to capital as they scale.

Tampa Bay Fundraising Deals

Below are a few deals to highlight the region’s recent fundraising activity.*

Note: While funding isn’t the perfect metric to measure a startup’s success, it is a vital part of many company’s growth journey; investable companies and available capital are key components of a region’s startup ecosystem.

*Deals include Tampa Bay-based companies and/or firms.

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The Dalí Museum located in Downtown St. Pete

Tampa Bay Startup Funders

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The St. Pete Saturday Morning Market attracts over 125 vendors weekly

Tampa Bay Startups to Watch

Tampa Bay is home to over 300 startups. These are a small handful of the many companies that have demonstrated exciting traction:

  • Admiral: A revenue platform helping digital publishers grow by improving visitor relationships through adblock recovery, paid subscriptions, privacy consent, and more.
  • COI Energy Services: An energy on-demand platform that allows utilities and businesses to maximize energy and balance the grid.
  • Grifin: A patent-pending technology that lets you automatically buy stock where you shop.
  • Immertec: A real-time 3D VR communications platform that allows professionals to seamlessly train, consult, and observe any time, anywhere.
  • Intrinio: US market data, company fundamentals data, options data and SEC data, powered by advanced data quality technology.
  • Knack: A peer tutoring platform for universities to activate their high-achieving students as a qualified network of peer educators.
  • Peerfit: A digital health and wellness platform that connects employers and carriers with personalized fitness experiences.
  • Pocket Network: A platform for developers to connect any app, on any blockchain, to any device with one line of code.
  • Presence: A campus engagement platform for institutions that insist on providing world-class student opportunities to learn and succeed.
  • ProCredEx: A digital marketplace for exchanging verified professional credentials.
  • SiteZeus: A user-driven Location Intelligence platform that leverages AI & machine learning to solve for market optimization.

Want to see more? A great place to start is with the startups building at Embarc Collective and Tampa Bay Wave.

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A manatee floating down Weeki Wachee Springs

Tampa Bay Incubators, Accelerators, and Startup Hubs

  • Embarc Collective: An education non-profit that helps Tampa Bay’s startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies. Through high-quality customized coaching and programming, Embarc Collective helps passionate and driven startup operators solve some of the world’s toughest challenges.
  • Florida Israel Business Accelerator: Providing Israeli companies guidance for entering the US market through corporate partners, consulting on localization and expansion, guidance on Go-to-Market strategies, access to prospective customers, investors and service providers, assistance with sales and lead generation activities and more.
  • The Greenhouse: St. Petersburg’s front-door to business growth, providing business owners and entrepreneurs with the education, resources and assistance necessary to thrive in the local economy.
  • SOFWERX: A platform that helps solve challenging Warfighter problems at scale through collaboration, ideation, events, and rapid prototyping.
  • Tampa Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Accelerator: Designed to aid Black and Hispanic businesses prepare for growth, the MBA helps these businesses identify and overcome barriers, which often include limited access to capital, key decision makers, and information in an equity-free accelerator.
  • Tampa Bay Innovation Center (fka TEC Garage): Focused on preparing B2B technology ventures in how to scale a company.
  • Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI): Incubator program for post idea-stage technology companies with at least one full-time executive and a completed business plan.
  • Tampa Bay Wave: Equity-free accelerator program with a robust mentorship program, by application.
  • The Undercroft: A member-driven cybersecurity guild that seeks to grow and advance cybersecurity tools and tradecraft, secure innovation, and national security.
  • University of Tampa Lowth Entrepreneurship Center: Located in the Sykes College of Business, the Lowth Center provides entrepreneurship education to students on campus in addition to their equity-free Spartan Accelerator program that is open to the general community.
  • 5508 THAP: Business educational training sessions covering capital access and government procurement, growth plan development, and small business branding solutions.
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Tampa Bay Coworking Spaces

Tampa Bay Conferences

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Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx at Synapse Summit 2020

Tampa Bay Community & Event Organizers

  • Bunker Labs: Connects military veterans to the resources that help grow their businesses.
  • EO Tampa Bay: A global, peer-to-peer network of more than 14,000+ influential business owners with 198 chapters in 61 countries.
  • High Tech Connect: Connects tech driven organizations with tech talent of all experience levels to foster community and brand awareness.
  • Operation Startup: Provides early-stage social entrepreneurs, Hillsborough Community College students, and the military Veteran start-up community access to mentoring, educational programs, co-working space, an early-stage business accelerator, events, and myriad networking opportunities.
  • Self Made Sisters USA (fka Startup Sisters USA): Celebrates and connects women startup founders and business owners through events and education.
  • Startup Xchange: Helps innovators and entrepreneurs meet and learn from each other and from the resource people whose experience can help further their idea/start-up company.
  • Suncoast Developers Guild: Connects developer organizations in the greater Tampa Bay area.
  • Tampa Bay Tech Career Advice Forum: Helps those interested in improving their tech career or starting a tech career.
  • Tampa Tech and Beer: A community of tech professionals and enthusiasts that are inspired and passionate about technology in all forms and applications.
  • Thinkful Tampa | Careers in tech: Building the world’s next workforce in Tampa with programs like software engineering, data science, data analytics, product management, and UX/UI design.
  • Women Who Code: The largest and most active community of engineers dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers.
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Sparkman Wharf, a waterfront hub for street food, live events, and offices in Downtown Tampa

Tampa Bay Tech Media and Podcasts

Tampa Bay Startup Jobs

Tampa Bay City Initiatives

  • Tampa Intersection of Innovation: Fosters innovation to enhance mobility, workforce development, housing affordability, development, and sustainability by making it easier for innovators to engage City departments, understand the Mayor’s vision and deploy projects to address community needs.
  • St. Pete Entrepreneur in Residence: Positions a local entrepreneur as the liaison between the entrepreneurial community and city government, with the goals of building bridges between the local startup/entrepreneurial community and local government; and empowering city government to utilize more innovative, efficient and entrepreneurial approaches to problem-solving and service delivery.

About Your Guide

Hiya 👋 I’m Dan, and I’m passionate about supporting early-stage tech startups in Tampa Bay.

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I grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Tampa Bay in 2014. Tampa Bay was — and continues to be — different in many ways than what I was familiar with, but the collective hunger for growth, the beautiful and unique nature, and the opportunities to contribute to a formative identity quickly won me over. While there’s still plenty of work to do (that’s the best part!), Tampa Bay is quickly shaping up to be one of the most exciting cities to live and build in.

If you’re interested in learning more about Tampa Bay or would like to connect, give me a holler!

LinkedIn | Twitter | Email

#BuildInSE

We build in the Southeast.

Dan Holahan

Written by

Exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship and community-building in Tampa Bay.

#BuildInSE

Our mission is to increase the number of startup success stories in the Southeast by leveraging a cross-regional, collaborative network.

Dan Holahan

Written by

Exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship and community-building in Tampa Bay.

#BuildInSE

Our mission is to increase the number of startup success stories in the Southeast by leveraging a cross-regional, collaborative network.

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