Monthly Archives: November 2018


Hiring is Hard.


As we discussed in our introductory post, local founders said they need help identifying and attracting great talent to their teams, both from within and outside of our market.

  • 25% of founders who responded to our survey specifically mentioned talent as their biggest challenge to growth
  • 62% of founders said an upcoming milestone is to hire more team members
  • 52% of founders are interested in programming to help them hire talent or build a team culture to attract and retain talent
  • 37% of upcoming key hires are software engineering or data positions
  • 27% of upcoming key hires are for senior roles. 10% are for C-level positions¹.


We compared upcoming key hires outlined by founders in our Embarc Collective Community Survey with the open roles listed online by those same survey respondents. Those roles were then grouped by function. From the 28 founders that listed upcoming key hires in the survey, a total of 79 upcoming jobs were reported².

Jobs Listed on Startup Websites vs Jobs Listed in Embarc Collective Community Survey, by job category


There are far more planned upcoming hires (79) than there are active job listings (29). But why? Many of these upcoming hires require having funds in the bank for salaries before the offer can be extended. Embarc Collective’s Recruiting Advisor, Kailah Matyas, noted the sequence of activities when hiring is dependent on funding: “You can’t just say you’ll hire talent, you need to be very specific. It shows investors that you’re planning appropriately. They want to know where their money is being spent.” This means a founder must first develop their hiring plan, then show investors the need for the funds to make these hires, and finally go secure the talent.

Thinking ahead about talent isn’t important just for seeking investment . In a highly competitive national market, finding the right talent for a team takes time. Matyas says founders should start leveraging their networks months in advance to find talent. For specialized hires that require a specific set of skills, she suggests working with a recruiter with experience in that area as well. As she puts it, “even if you’re not ready to make that hire today, you always want to have a pipeline of talent ready.”

However, building that pipeline of talent can be a challenge, especially when looking for technical hires where the talent market is very tight. In fact, the US Chamber of Commerce reports that demand for computer science jobs exceeds supply by 17%³. According to Matyas, that discrepancy is greater in Tampa than in other regions in part because our region historically has had larger, more traditional industries that use different technology stacks from those used by startups in San Francisco, Austin, or New York City. Because of that, Matyas says, “there’s a gap between how companies are building their products and the existing type of skills of technology talent in Tampa Bay.”

That being said, Matyas is a believer in “hiring great athletes” and says that tech hires can get up to speed relatively quickly as long as they have, “proven themselves capable and have the desire to learn something new.” It also helps that skilled talent, and engineers in particular, enjoy sharing what they’ve learned, which Matyas knows can help develop skills across the community.

“One of the things I look for in a senior hire is who is following them.”

There is good news to this story. One employee can be a gateway to an entire team. This type of peer-driven growth is one of the reasons that senior roles are such key hires. “One of the things I look for in a senior hire is who is following them. I’ve often seen companies bring in a CTO or head of sales and he or she then has a team of people that will follow right behind them,” Matyas said.

Part of our mission at Embarc Collective is to attract great talent from outside the region while ensuring that we retain and develop existing talent that is already working or graduating here. While the survey responses we’ve collected and the interviews we’ve conducted have helped us delve into this issue, there’s still a lot we want to know about the startup talent landscape in our region.

We’re collecting data on startup job opportunities, and we’re sharing it with the community.

With that in mind, we’ve been collecting data on job listings for startups in the Tampa Bay area. We’ve started out with 24 companies, and we will be adding more every week. We’re aiming to measure a variety of topics, including which types of jobs are the most difficult to hire for, the rate at which new jobs get added, and the type and frequency of technical skills being sought. We’re sharing what we learn publicly, along with all of the job listings we find. Please include your information and fill out this form so that we can include your startup’s careers page.


  • Hiring talent is a challenge for startup growth in Tampa Bay (and we’re not alone)
  • Funding is a barrier for hiring. Having a thought-out plan for upcoming hires is important to have when seeking investment.
  • The skills gap is a national issue, but might be more pronounced in our region because there’s a gap between how companies are building their products and the existing type of skills of technology talent in Tampa Bay.
  • The right hire can help develop and attract more talent for your team.
  • You can find our ongoing data about startup jobs in Tampa here.

¹Because these were free-response questions, these percentages are likely higher in reality (since a founder may be hiring a VP of Sales but only indicated “sales” in their response).

²or more: some founders planned on hiring multiple employees for the same role

³ There is some debate around the skills gap, however. This MIT Technology Review article suggests that most of these open technical positions get filled relatively quickly.


Hiring is Hard

This piece has been migrated from our former Embarc Collective reports website. URLs will not be active, nor will the report be interactive.


Thanksgiving Revelations From My Favorite Scientist

My dad’s startup, the Advanced Photon Source

My dad’s startup, the Advanced Photon Source


Thanksgiving for me is a time of gratitude and reflection. I love this holiday because I get to surround myself with the people I love and take a moment to appreciate what I have in life.

This past year for me has been a whirlwind. I moved to Tampa Bay from Chicago and began to lay the foundation for the big vision behind Embarc Collective. However, the most notable change this past year was even more personal. Just after Thanksgiving 2017, I lost my father to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. There is no one I admire as much as my father, so there was a lot to adjust to in my new life without him.

A bit of context: My father was a scientist, a physicist to be exact. His professional contribution to the world was a research facility called the Advanced Photon Source– which enabled very necessary multi-disciplinary research to be conducted under what was the world’s brightest light source.

The scientist and the entrepreneur are in many ways similar. Both are driven each day by a problem they know needs to be solved. Both work tirelessly in the pursuit of finding a solution, making trade-offs in life that sometimes are hard to understand. And both are wanting to make a positive impact on the world.

As I reflect on Thanksgiving 2018, I’m struck by how much I’ve applied what I learned from my father, the scientist, to my world of supporting entrepreneurs and building Embarc Collective.

1) Remember the Why

Growing up, I saw my dad work long days and nights, but he never thought about it as work. It was his passion. I have to make a deliberate decision to stop at least once a day when feeling taxed by meetings, a never-ending to-do list and feeling perpetually behind to remember why I’m doing this. I love my role as part of the Embarc Collective team — and I spend my days building this organization because I see strength and drive in the entrepreneurs of the Tampa-St. Pete region and want to help them see success. That success will breed more success, and this region will only continue to rise because of it.

2) The Team is Everything

My dad’s professional team was part of our family. They were often at our home for dinner when I was young, and they were often at our home to help my family later when my dad was sick. That showed me the importance of finding great people because when the vision is big, you can’t do it alone, and you build a bond that is akin to family. The Embarc Collective team is extraordinary — filled with a passion for the mission and endowed with incredible discipline, motivation and curiosity. Anyone who works with these people is incredibly lucky.

3) This is Bigger Than All of Us

The Advanced Photon Source was an $812 million dollar project (FY95 dollars). To make a project of that size come to fruition required the support and alignment of an entire community — not just amongst the scientists, but also with the rest of the research community and the local and federal government. That taught me that when going after a big vision like what we all have for Tampa Bay, you need the backing and collaboration of an entire community. Upon moving to this region, I was pleased to learn this alignment and collaboration exists and is increasing daily within the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial community. That will be our greatest strength as we work together to make Tampa Bay a prime destination for diverse startup talent to make an impact and create the condition for entrepreneurs to be successful in our region.

During this Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you take time to rest and reflect with the people who matter the most to you. I also thank you for welcoming me as a newcomer into this community. I look forward to big things ahead for us during the rest of 2018 and into 2019.


Embarc Collective Opens Membership Application and Shares First Rendering

Tampa Bay innovation hub to bring together startups, venture capitalists, and academic resources in 32,000-square foot downtown Tampa location


Tampa, Florida – The innovation hub Embarc Collective has released the first renderings of its new 32,000-square foot space. Located near the Water Street Tampa neighborhood at the intersection of East Whiting Street and Jefferson Street in downtown Tampa, Embarc Collective will open in early 2019 and is now accepting applications. The hub will formally bring together startups, venture capitalists, academic resources, and startup-focused partners in a central physical location.

Embarc Collective Rendering

Working with architects at KWJ and designers at Kreher/Barna Design Studio, Embarc Collective’s space will feature ‘mini-neighborhoods’ for startups and other community groups. The hub will also feature private work spaces and state of the art facilities for podcasting, collaboration and events capable of hosting 250+ guests. All of these resources in addition to a public café, outdoor lounge and lending library will make Embarc Collective one of the most robust entrepreneurial hubs in the country.

“Using modern aesthetics, we’ve created an urban porch for this historic, brick warehouse, and designed an interior that reflects a microcosm of our urban environment,” explained Jan Barna of Kreher/Barna Design Studio.

Embarc Collective Rendering

The innovation hub’s holistic approach to fostering success will also include “support pillars” such as coaching, an on-site recruiting strategist, marketing assistance, a global network of investors, and in-house development offerings. Interested technology startups can apply now to be part of the collective.

Memberships range from the full Embarc Collective experience — with dedicated team space and complete access to Embarc Collective’s support pillars — to more individualized offerings, and even a flexible membership for freelance digital designers and developers to work amongst the startup community.

Embarc Collective Rendering

“Our success is measured by the success of our local startups”, added Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective, “so it’s critical we work with entrepreneurs who are focused on building their company and want to be surrounded by others who are doing the same.”

Embarc Collective is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, pending approval.


For inquiries, contact | 702-490-9867


Featured Founder: Jim Schimpf of Chattr

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Pete who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Jim Schimpf, the co-founder and CEO of Chattr (formerly HireHumanly), a people-first recruitment technology and marketing company that is reinventing the way candidates and employers connect

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Pete who are scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
I have been the managing partner for a direct mail marketing company since 2005. Prior to that, I worked in the IT staffing industry for the largest staffing company in the US.

The inspiration behind Chattr (formerly Hire Humanly) came from both an interest and a challenge. After reading the book “BOLD” by Peter Diamondis, I became wildly fascinated with Artificial Intelligence. I strongly felt it would be the next game-changing technology. I knew I wanted to be a part of it although I didn’t know how. Then as I was recruiting new salespeople for my marketing company, I realized how laborious and had become. It was basically another hat our team had to wear…yet we were out of heads to place the new hat! As a person who constantly studies how to optimize my own life, I knew there had to be a better way. That’s when it hit me…Artificial Intelligence is the ultimate optimizer. I thought, what if AI could do most of these time-consuming tasks so it frees us up for what really matters…meaningful work that makes meaningful impact.

What pain point is your company solving?
We’re juiced our technology is solving two massive employment recruiting pain points simultaneously.

Today’s employment market is in the middle of the perfect storm:

For job seekers, the application experience is simply dreadful. Long applications are eventually followed by the “black-hole” submit button which ultimately activates the “no-interaction/feedback” philosophy the majority of companies adopt. What should be a very motivating experience quickly strips the job seeker’s enthusiasm…leaving them frustrated and bitter. With unemployment at an all-time low and the competition for good talent at an all-time high, company’s need to start treating candidates like they treat customers. In fact, data is now proving that a negative employment brand and candidate experience is adversely impacting sales and profits. Our technology mitigates this problem by deploying an AI chatbot, we affectionately call “Recruiter Concierge,”that guides a highly interactive conversational application ultimately making the job seeker feel acknowledge, valued and engaged.

For emerging companies, recruiting is the life-line for growth and CEO’s need to go further, faster…with less resources. “More hats, less heads.” However, on average, each job will attract over 250 resumes with only 4–6 interviews eventually occurring. Multiple that by, let say, 25 to 50 job openings and how does a company, without a dedicated recruiting team, handle that? Not efficiently.

Recruiter Concierge optimizes this hectic process by virtually eliminating all of the mundane tasks like sourcing, pre-screening, answering FAQ’s and scheduling interviews…tasks that steal time away from meaningful conversations with good candidates. Think about it as an always present, ultra-helpful, Virtual Recruiting Assistant.

What gets you excited to go to work every day?
My personal mission is to wake up inspired so I can inspire others. Consequently, I get excited with the people and the process. You rise or reduce to the level of the people around you and I’ve made it a priority to surround myself with superstar people, who hold themselves to high standards, fuel our mission and are gritty enough to not only withstand the grind but actually embrace it. “The gifts are in the grind.”

As for the love of the process…We launched this company around our core values first…our cause, second…and the product, third. We passionately believe a cause driven by core values, never goes out of business. We want our brand to represent our strong AO, “Always Optimize”, philosophy. Whether it’s our product, our customer’s experiences, our internal processes, or our team’s productivity…we’re always optimizing to create more meaningful work.

Name the biggest challenge you faced as you’ve launched your company. How did you overcome it?
It would be easy to say a lack of resources, time or funding but if I’m being ultra-candid, my biggest challenge is staying optimistic daily. All entrepreneurs have small moments of doubt and it doesn’t help that our brains are physiologically hard wired to protect us from danger and keep us safe and comfy. You have to constantly override…actually…intentionally reprogram that hard-wired system to be comfortable being uncomfortable and keep pushing towards your goal.

I firmly believe each of us has the ability to manifest greatness. But it starts with the basics: Faith, Belief and Enthusiasm. Unwavering faith in my abilities. Concrete belief in our impact driven mission. Endless enthusiasm for what we’re doing…attitude is everything. It’s simple, but not easy.

Where do you see your company headed next?
Our technology will continue to impact other steps in the employment process like recruitment marketing, onboarding, ongoing employee engagement, and team development, all centered around the mission of making work more meaningful. Our more aggressive BHAG is to have far greater impact than just technology products and services. We’re passionate about helping emerging small to mid-market companies…the results are very tangible and fulfilling. So we want to be the #1 brand, within that market segment, synonymous with making work meaningful through our “Always Optimize” movement.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
Learn, implement and remain firmly focused on the “Critical Next Step. We call it the “CNS”. Founders are overloaded with seemingly important tasks. But being busy doesn’t always mean being productive. Actually, all too often, being busy eventually leads to being broke. So after each conversation, phone call, or meeting, our team gets myopically focused and identifies the one glaringly obvious thing that either propels us towards our goal or breaks through a progress impeding barrier. Those who practice the CNS, in both their life and business, are constantly proven to accomplish more.

Learn more about HireHumanly on Twitter.


Featured Founder: Samyr Qureshi of Knack

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Pete who are scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
Previous to Knack, I was an Emerging Technology Account Executive at Gartner. Our team has always believed the best means of learning is from a peer. So we wanted to foster communities of students who were motivated to teach and learn from one another, especially on college campuses where collaborative collisions were already happening… thus Knack was born.

What pain point is your company solving for?
Knack helps universities and colleges boost student graduation rates and career readiness by offering peer tutoring/mentoring opportunities to their high-achieving students as a supplement to existing student support services. Our platform allows universities to expand coverage of student support services, invest in student development by creating on-campus jobs for high-achievers to tutor peers, and strengthen university advancement initiatives via corporate engagement.

What gets me excited everyday is the fact that our business is social impact driven with the goal of impacting student success. We value the impact our technology has on a student’s college experience and as a marketplace there’s value for every stakeholder: the tutee (college student needing help), the tutor (the high-achieving college student), and the university (the consumer of data). This means our impact has a massive multiplier effect the more we scale. What’s also really cool is the fact that today we’re using technology to connect people offline and IRL — not many companies do this nowadays!

Name the biggest challenge you faced as you’ve launched your company. How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced as we’ve launched Knack has been bandwidth. As a marketplace business, we’re effectively selling value propositions to multiple audiences which means we’re almost building separate products for each stakeholder. This makes it tough when you’re small, capital restrained, and have limited resources. We’ve overcome this by maniacally prioritizing product/features based on customer feedback and by gauging its potential impact. We really make a concerted effort to speak with all of our customers as much as we possibly can.

Where do you see your company headed next?
Up and to the right 🙂 … but for real, we’ve got an incredible opportunity to change the perception of tutoring and student support on college campuses by building a product students love and can’t live without. The importance of this is beginning to resonate with institutional customers and we couldn’t be more excited!

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
Put off raising money for as long as you can and just talk to customers. Stay scrappy, talk to your buyer(s) to nail their most pressing problems, hack together a minimum viable product that solves their most pressing issues, get it in their hands ASAP, and ask for meticulous feedback. Rinse, lather, repeat to get as close as you can to product market fit. THEN, if you need to, go chase investment dollars. Raising a capital is an immense distraction and you need to de-risk your business as much as possible to secure your chances of raising a true institutional venture round. That being said, if you do the aforementioned well enough, you may not even need a ton of capital — that’s the dream 🙂

Learn more about Knack on Twitter , Facebook, and Instagram.


Embarc Collective Community Survey 2018: Introduction

This piece has been migrated from our former Embarc Collective reports website. URLs will not be active, nor will the report be interactive.


Embarc Collective Community Survey 2018: Introduction

In preparation for our launch in 2019, Embarc Collective reached out to Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial community to help identify specific needs and opportunities to guide our efforts. Our philosophy is to root what we are building in the needs of our community, which allows our team to measure impact as we move forward. More than 250 founders, employees, investors, and other community members responded to the survey.

Post 1 of 6

Illustration by Ali De Sousa

A problem well stated is a problem half solved.

— Charles Kettering

In preparation for our launch in 2019, Embarc Collective reached out to Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial community to help identify specific needs and opportunities to guide our efforts. Our philosophy is to root what we are building in the needs of our community, which allows our team to measure impact as we move forward. More than 250 founders, employees, investors, and other community members responded to the survey.

Breakdown of survey respondents

Founder Findings

This is the first of a series of posts which will dig into the survey results and examine how we as a community can respond to those stated needs. This post will focus on startup founder needs. Startup founders are uniquely positioned to speak on all parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whether that’s hiring talent, seeking investment, acquiring customers, or taking advantage of local resources. To that end, we asked founders what their upcoming milestones in the next 12 months are.

Because we allowed founders to select multiple answers, the following chart shows how frequently any two milestones appeared together. The diagonal shows how often each option appeared total.

What are your upcoming milestones in the next 12 months?

n = 76

What immediately jumps out in this chart is that founders are focused on growing their customer base, hiring more team members, and raising funds.

  • 75% of founders said an upcoming milestone is to grow their customer base
  • 62% of founders said an upcoming milestone is to raise funds
  • 62% of founders said an upcoming milestone is to hire more team members

42% of founders said all three of those categories are upcoming milestones. As the chart illustrates, these three are a bigger focus than launching a product, finding co-working space, or finding private working space.

Topics, programs, and services of interest

To get a better sense of what founders are looking for, we asked them what topics they’re interested in, as well as which training programs and mentoring services they’re most in need of. Both of these questions also allowed respondents to select multiple answers. Their responses broadly reflect what we learned about upcoming milestones, but they introduce some new categories to examine.

What topics are of most interest to you?

n = 76

The same three milestones are represented in the answers to this question, but at lower rates¹:

  • 64% of founders said either scaling or marketing/sales are topics of interest
  • 52% of founders said either hiring talent or building a team culture to attract and retain talent are topics of interest
  • 46% of founders said that investor readiness is a topic of interest

A new result of interest from this question is that 46% of founders said they are interested in hearing best practices from successful entrepreneurs who have built companies.

What programs and services are you most in need of?

n = 76

Distinct from topics of interest, we also asked founders what training/mentoring programs and services they are most in need of. Customers, capital, and talent were once again well-represented. However, founders did not express as much of a need for access to talent/recruiting strategy services²:

  • 63% of founders need better connections to investment prospects / sources of capital
  • 47% of founders need corporate customer introductions
  • 29% of founders need better access to talent/recruiting strategy services

Similarly to the previous question’s results on hearing entrepreneur insights,51% of founders said they need a like-minded community of entrepreneurs.

New to this analysis is that 43% of founders expressed a need for press coverage and brand building.

Connectivity and Storytelling

The last two questions we’ll examine in this post asked founders what their challenges for business growth are, and what the Tampa–St. Pete community can do to better support their growth. We classified these qualitative answers into categories, several of which mirror prior answer choices.

Founders once again considered funding, talent, and customer growth to be significant challenges. When telling us about how the community can help their growth, founders brought up two new categories: Connectivity and Storytelling.

We know from prior questions that 46% of founders are interested in learning insights from fellow entrepreneurs, and that 51% of founders want a like-minded community of entrepreneurs. What founders said the community could do to help their growth expanded on those ideas. How well does the community direct founders to available resources? Do individuals in the community support each other and share their insights? This concept, connectivity, is a particularly important indicator of how effective support organizations are within an entrepreneurial ecosystem³.

Another theme that emerged from these responses is that founders want the community to share their successes and tell Tampa–St. Pete’s entrepreneurial story. This isn’t just seen as something to be done for the sake of recognition; founders also expressed that by making our regional brand and success stories more widely known, we can attract more talent and capital. As one founder told us:

Continue building the innovation culture and marketing this within other regions in the Southeast. This will draw resources and talent here.

This founder brings up an excellent point — none of these needs exist in a vacuum, and working on one issue will positively impact the others. More successful startups will attract more investors and talent; more investors will allow for more startups to hire more talent; more talent leads to more successful startups. This can seem like a daunting chicken-and-egg problem, but we also see it as more avenues through which we can drive growth.

As Embarc Collective prepares to launch in 2019, we’re prioritizing our efforts using these insights and the many ongoing conversations we’re having with members of the community. To keep learning more about Embarc Collective, and to see how we’re using these results to inform our decision-making, sign up for updates below!


TL;DR: We found that there are five major categories in which we can help founders:

  • Funding
  • Talent
  • Customer growth
  • Community cohesion
  • Storytelling and building the region’s entrepreneurial brand

As Embarc Collective prepares to launch in 2019, we’re using these insights —alongside ongoing conversations with founders, investors, and other members of the entrepreneurial community — to help us prioritize which services and programs we direct our effort towards. Sign up using the form above to stay up-to-date on our next set of findings!



¹ There are a few potential explanations for seeing the same top answers at a lower rate. The simplest is that by expanding the total number of options to a question you dilute the responses (even if the question allows a respondent to select all that apply). The second is that there is a difference between upcoming milestones and topics of interest (or between milestones and needed programs/services). A founder may see fundraising as an upcoming milestone (62%), but a subset of those founders might feel that they are ready to pitch to investors and so therefore do not consider investor readiness (46%) as a topic of interest.

² A possibility for this discrepancy is that founders see hiring as a need but don’t see talent/recruiting strategy services as a way to meet that need. Founders indicated multiple times that hiring is a topic of concern, and one of our tasks moving forward is to better understand how we can help startups find the best talent.

³ As Stangler and Bell-Masterson (2015) put it, “ Recent years have seen a proliferation of entrepreneurship education and training programs around the world, but the mere existence of programmatic resources is not the same thing as effectiveness, let alone vibrancy. Connections matter, and a dense network of connections, among a small number of programs, is arguably more important than a sparse network among a larger number.”