Monthly Archives: May 2019


Featured Founder: Nathan Hagen of Admiral

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Nathan Hagen, Co-Founder of Admiral, a revenue platform helping digital publishers grow by improving visitor relationships through adblock recovery, paid subscriptions, privacy consent, and more.


What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I think my answer to this question is very typical for many entrepreneurs, but I think the story behind how our team got together is really unique. The short answer is that I worked in advertising for a digital publisher, and when that opportunity ended, I saw an opportunity to take my experiences and share them in a way that wouldn't have been possible if I were doing anything other than starting a business. I think this is a common experience. Working at larger companies is rewarding, but often times its extremely difficult to substantively tackle new challenges that are on the horizon. And while joining an existing startup is a great opportunity to learn quickly and influence the direction of a product and team, there is already a problem, and hopefully a solution, that you'll be running at starting on day 1.

If you really want to test out an idea that has been stuck in your head like glue, and if you really want to make an impact, there isn't a better way to do that than to take some time off and really run at and invest in it by starting a business. That's where I was at and that's what I wanted to do. What I think is unique about my story, though, is that Admiral wasn't started by just me. Or me and a co-founder. Or even me and 2 co-founders. On day 1 of Admiral, we had 5 people in a room working towards addressing the problems we felt we were uniquely positioned to solve based on our experiences working on them, together, already. And this is a really important part of our story.

The entire founding team at Admiral, and actually almost all of our full-time employees for the first few years, were people we had worked with every day for years at Grooveshark, the company we all came from before starting Admiral. Grooveshark had a killer team, a very widely used consumer product, a strong brand, and a successful ad business. When it shut down in early 2015, leadership did a good job of helping people land on their feet while loose ends were tied up, but after hours, there were a few groups of us who would meet and talk about ways that we could keep working together in our next chapter. What interesting problems did we solve together that we knew other publishers were having? Within a month of our last paycheck at Grooveshark, Admiral had a name and a proven team ready to execute on a mission to bridge the gap between adblockers and publishers. We just had to build it and find customers. And that's kinda how it all started.


What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day

We think most publishers are content creators first and technology companies second, and we provide a technology platform that helps them build their revenue streams through messaging or engagement. Our beachhead is adblock recovery, so that's where we usually start with our customers: we say, you're probably losing 20% of your revenue to people who have chosen not to see ads, and we'll help you engage with them about the value exchange that is necessary to support the content they're consuming. So we help them start a conversation that might be around whitelisting, or around paid ad-free passes, or something similar. Their total revenues will go up 10-15% or more. We usually have so much success with this that our customers ask if we can do the same thing with the rest of their audiences.

Personally, I want to make journalism sustainable. That's what inspires me the most about what we're doing. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have proven a model for this, called "subscriptions", but that's traditionally been a hard game for digital news media. Even for national brands like NYT, it hasn't been easy. And so, traditionally, businesses that depend on journalism are supported by advertising, and there are problems with this. Technical problems, ethical problems, money problems, privacy problems. All kind of problems. No reputable newspaper business would tell you they love that banner advertising is the backbone of their business because there are these problems. The incentives aren't great. Users can block ads, or have a diminished experience on the site and often don't see the content as valuable as it really is. Advertisers don't get explicit editorial control, but they do have too much power with regards to how users experience content on the page. And if a writer is getting paid, in part, according to how many clicks their article headlines get, what kind of headlines can we expect them to write? That's some of why I'm excited about doing my part to help digital publishers go beyond just advertising.

Reliable subscriptions I think are a key part of improving journalism in the next decade, and providing subscriptions in a way that works for publishers is not something most publishers are equipped to do well, if at all. That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. Advertising allows people to access content without respect to whether they can afford it. I think in a democratic society, advertising ought to exist where it can. But good, reliable, trustworthy, and impactful journalism costs money to create, and I think consumers will need to be educated about that in order for content creators to build more sustainable businesses. So we do much more than just subscriptions. We make it dead simple for them to start a conversation with their users about the value of their content, and if they can't pay for it with cash, and if they really don't want to see ads, we make it possible for them to do what they can by signing up for mailing lists, following on social, submitting new content, or through another engagement touchpoint. The important thing for us is giving publishers and users as many choices as possible so that they can build the best and most sustainable and lasting relationships with each other.


Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

While starting Admiral has been one of the most rewarding and exciting things I've done in my life, it has come with a lot of challenges. Realistically, the biggest challenge was the financial crunch in the first year before we raised money and were able to pay a salary. I had started Admiral after working at another startup before it--and I wasn't working there because of the money. I had some savings, but I wasn't planning to not take a paycheck when the opportunity to start Admiral arose. I was a young founder--I think, 23 or 24. I put most of the money into the company that I had saved up, and spent about 6 months driving for Uber after work to pay rent. I'd be in our tiny office until 9pm and then out driving drunk kids around Gainesville until 3-4 am a few days a week. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't sustainable and honestly dangerous in a couple of ways. I gave up an apartment that I really loved and found a dirt cheap month-to-month situation with a friend. Everything in my life was month-to-month, for a long time. I don't recall ever taking a vacation, and I didn't see my family down here in Tampa much that year.

At the time, I didn't have a spouse to lean on financially. I didn't keep another day-job, and I had bills to pay. I got really good at finding events with free food. I didn't have any breathing room until we had a few opportunities to build MVPs for a couple of other startups in our network. We wouldn't have been able to make it to our seed round without doing those projects. We used that money for some early salaries, which is what ultimately got us over the hump to the point that we all knew we could stick it out until we were able to raise money. I really believed in what we were doing, and the team we had and gave everything I could.

We eventually went on to raise $2.5M in our Seed round. But it's hard to build your own thing when you're also building someone else's thing, and it's hard to imagine being able to make the choices and sacrifices I made then again as I get older. I also think a lot of those challenges are normal and an important part of an entrepreneurial story. And it was a good time, really. I had the privilege of a family I knew I could fall back on if things became dire, and the flexibility of being an ambitious 20-something software engineer in a good economy. No kids or mortgage. Good health. My rent was never more than $450/mo. I was supremely privileged. There have been a ton of other challenges we've faced. Having a remote team. Raising money. Not getting enough traction when we really needed it. Shifting from being product-focused to customer-focused. Unexpectedly and impossibly long sales cycle for important customers. Hiring high-need employees is a challenge. Company culture and morale. Marketing to cost-centers. But I want to highlight the financial barrier to entry because I think it's really important for our community specifically to talk and think about how difficult it is, logistically, to start a company. If you don't live downtown, how are you connecting with the community here? If you can't afford a reliable car in Tampa, how can you talk about starting a business? If you have a family to support, how can you take the risk of entrepreneurship responsibly? What if you don't have a family to support financially, but you also don't have a family to financially fall back on? If you don't run in wealthy circles already, how do you connect with investors or other founders? How do you pay for health insurance? Tough questions that we need to help our community find answers for as we build an inclusive, diverse, and successful entrepreneurial space here in Tampa.


Where do you see your company headed next?

Admiral's future lies in the relationships between our publishers and their audiences. We truly think that the future of digital publishing will require publishers to take a more individualized and flexible approach to exchange value with users who come to their site. Not just with content recommendations or conversion optimizations, but really building an understanding that the user is coming to a site, or a network of sites, because the content they're getting is valuable and worth coming back for and supporting. It's also about ensuring that users can still get access to all the content they could need without being inconvenienced.

To this end, this year we're rolling out and expanding our multi-site subscription business, which allows publishers to let users subscribe to multiple properties that they own, or share subscribers with other related publishers. We're also investing in improving our targeting so that its easier for publishers to engage with different types of users in ways that make the most sense and get the most out of each type of user. On top of all that, we just want to continue to offer the widest range of value exchange mediums and features that exist in our market. So far we've done great, but our customers expect the best, and we aim to deliver.


Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

Love your team. Be an evangelist for them. An idea is useless without an effective team to execute on it. First, find (a) co-founder(s) that you trust and would commit the next 5+ years of your professional life to. Next, get to know people who have skills you know you'll need, and who you know will be great for your team, and who will stick with you through the ups and downs of building a company. These things are not easy to find but they're essential and you can't take them for granted. A good team is a rare thing. Make sure they know that and use that to set a high bar for responsibility and excellence. If your team feels like they can do anything, they might just be able to.


Learn more about Admiral on  Facebook and Twitter.



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How To Choose a Scalable CMS

This guest post was contributed by our partner, Bayshore Solutions.

If your website is the face of your company, your content management system (CMS) is the bones and the brain. Choosing the right CMS for your website is a decision you should not make impulsively. Before you set your sights on a specific platform, pay attention to these key points.


Consider Scalability & Growth

Scalability should be kept top of mind when choosing a CMS. Make sure the CMS you select can grow with you and support the functionality you see your business using in the future. Imagine where your startup will be a year from now. Will you have products to add? Features or software to integrate? Start making a list of all the requirements your website will need to accommodate today and, in the future, then work on prioritizing them. Create a bucket for must-haves, should-haves, could-haves and would-haves. Then work with your website agency or marketing team to define what features or requirements you are comfortable launching with, and which will need to be incorporated into a phase two launch. With the right understanding of where your company is today and where it’s headed, you’ll be in a better position to make the right CMS choice.


Know Your Options

With so many CMSs on the market, it’s hard to fully grasp all the pros and cons of each platform. Before your mind is set, research the different CMS types your familiar with. Then, do an audit to see what your competitors are using. Use tools like to identify the technology integrated with each site. While each business model has very specific needs, here are a few CMS platforms we commonly recommend for our clients.


It’s likely you’ve heard of this one before because it’s the most popular CMS in the world. Due to its popularity, its likely someone on your team will already have experience with this CMS. WordPress is known for its highly customizable features and low-cost server maintenance. This platform is user-friendly, making it easy to add new content when needed. With tons of unique plugins and features, WordPress is great for blogging, e-commerce, capturing leads, and more. Just pay attention to the security enhancements, because it’s also been a frequent target for hackers.



As an open source platform, Drupal makes it easy for developers to alter functionalities and create unique designs. This platform requires more technical knowledge to use but provides APIs for easy sharing on social media. Drupal’s framework provides advanced capabilities for e-commerce and quick page load times for sites with large amounts of information and pages.



This CMS is known for being highly customizable, with many features for a wide range of applications. Sitefinity has a higher hosting fee, but the features are well worth it. This platform is great for those who need an ecommerce site that can handle a large volume of transactions, advanced content management, and tailored messaging for consumers. For a scalable solution, Sitefinity is a great option to consider.



HubSpot is an integrated, all in one platform that’s great for giving your company the web presence you want, while capturing inbound leads. This platform has a long list of sales and marketing features including an easy to use blog tool, email and social media integrations, and a plethora of resources tailored specifically to startups; making it easy to scale up when the time comes.

Narrow it Down

There are hundreds of options in the market, so make sure to take the time to compare features and see which one will accomplish what you need with the most ease. If you’re stuck deciding between two platforms and can’t quite pull the trigger, reach out to a trusted digital agency to offer any advice or experience they have had. Elements to keep in mind are SEO functionality (the ability for search engines to find your site), payment processing capabilities, customer support, email list sign-ups, security and customizability to name a few. Work with fellow team members and find out what elements they find essential, too, for a more comprehensive list.


Choosing a CMS to launch your website should be a process conducted with great care to avoid frustrations down the road. Utilizing the right CMS will ensure that after the development team is done creating the website, your team will have the ability to easily navigate and make edits as needed. As your business evolves, your CMS should be able to keep up with your needs, preventing you from having to start over in a few short years.



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Building in the Bay


I remember visiting Tampa for baseball tournaments when I was younger, but I never thought that it would be the place I called home. I was close to finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama and decided to take a trip down to Tampa to spend time with my dad. He invited me to sit in on a few of his business meetings. One of the meetings was with Dr. Michael Fountain, the founding director of the USF Center for Entrepreneurship, to talk about a health tech startup. I was a fly on the wall for most of the conversation until Dr. Fountain began asking me questions about what I wanted to do after graduating. He proceeded to give me an overview of USF's Masters in Entrepreneurship program and a few reasons why I should consider USF for my graduate degree. He mentioned that the program was ranked in the top 15 nationwide and that there was a focus on healthcare technology, but I was really sold on learning directly from Dr. Fountain. Notwithstanding his entrepreneurial and investor success, he was (and still is) one of the most approachable and caring people I've ever met.

It didn't take long for me to send in my application. My girlfriend at the time (now wife - hi, Kristen!) and our dog, Cashew, took a leap of faith with me on this journey. We didn't have friends here or know much about the area, but we were committed to building the next chapter of our lives in Tampa Bay.


Big TB Energy

Getting settled here was much easier than I anticipated. Shortly after starting grad school, I had the opportunity to intern for a local startup support organization, Tampa Bay Wave. What I quickly learned about the Tampa Bay region is that there are so many talented people here working on diverse technology businesses ranging from digital health platforms to bitcoin wallets. While Tampa Bay is not traditionally known for technology endeavors, many of the local entrepreneurs had moved here because of the growing startup community. Not to mention it's also a beautiful place to live and work. Their bullishness on Tampa Bay's growth was contagious, and their love of the region instilled confidence in me to continue building here, even though there is a long way to go for our region to be recognized as a flourishing tech hub. The startup community always encouraged me to start my own company and offered their support with whatever I needed. I was part of something bigger than myself, and it felt great. Most people think that you have to be out in Silicon Valley to work on a tech startup, but that couldn't be further from the truth.


Starting a Startup

When I graduated from USF, I started planning my own startup in the healthcare realm. I had a hypothesis, conducted thorough research, and then leveraged my connections to find the right co-founder. As many of you know, finding the right co-founder is one of the most difficult yet critical foundational elements to a successful startup, and my experience was no different. However, the Tampa Bay startup community was more than willing to help me find the right person, and it turns out that this person was also looking for someone like me. Mark Swanson, a tech serial entrepreneur, had the know-how, desire, and connections to help me transform this idea into a reality.

Mark was the Chairman of the Wave at the time so we had an office there. I loved it. It was immensely valuable to have founder-to-founder discussions with other like-minded entrepreneurs and get feedback on product, pitches, customers, working with corporates, etc. These conversations had such a positive impact on me - professionally and personally.

Fast forward to the ending - when we were on the goal line about to roll out our pilot with three blue-chip partners (payer, provider network, and a telecom company), the deal fell through. We relied too heavily on one distribution partner, which was a wrong move. Securing a deal with one large partner is a tough win in itself, and it turns out that organizing three large partners was too difficult for what we could handle at the time. As you learn in the startup world, one wrong hypothesis can impact the whole direction of the company.

Startups are tough and my adventure was no outlier. There were peaks of great joy and valleys of frustration. We experienced lots of painful no's, lots of ghosting (never hearing back) and, even worse, plenty of maybe's - things that happen in every city. But I learned from the community that this was just a stepping stone towards the next phase of my career. With their help, I developed a thick layer of scar tissue, and without that experience and network building, I wouldn't have gotten to the next step of my life.


Professional Pivot

Even though my initial vision didn't manifest into reality, I met some amazing people along the way: entrepreneurs, investors, support organizations, mentors, and so many more. However, I was particularly interested in the investment community since my fundraising experience was somewhat opaque. I was set on finding a job on the other side of the table to see what goes on behind the scenes, so I reached out to a good friend of mine who was in the investment space, Scott Lee, and he put me in touch with the partners at Murray-Bertron, a VC/PE family office based here in Tampa. I spent 3.5 years there and I learned so much from the team, like how important relationships are in the investment world, and how to ask the right questions to make an educated assessment, quickly. But the most important lesson was that ROI is what investing is all about and the partners at MB are stellar at what they do. During this time, I met so many bright, charismatic entrepreneurs that were a bit outside of our investment criteria and just needed a little help crossing that threshold. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to support these founders and their stakeholders (family, employees, etc.). It was time for me to get back on the startup side and help them achieve their goals.


Support Squad

Cue, Embarc Collective. Through the power of connectivity (and cordiality of Tampa Bay's entrepreneurial community), I heard about Embarc Collective - a nonprofit whose mission is to help Tampa Bay's startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies - and I honestly couldn't think of a better organizational fit. I'm thankful for the opportunity to work alongside some of the brightest, hard-working, and personable people I've ever met. I'll be contributing as the Business Development and Coaching Manager. The former role is where I help corporates and startups develop framework and processes to work together, and the latter role is where I work with startup founders on the foundation and scalability of their business - something we call "working on the business." I like to think that a critical element of my role will be to choreograph serendipity between corporations and startups so magic can really happen. If you want to talk more about business development or Embarc Collective coaching drop me a line.

I never thought Tampa would be my home, but I'm so proud to be a part of this beautiful, blooming region. My gut feeling turned out to be judicious; Kristen, Cashew and I haven't looked back once. There's something special going on here. If you're not from the area, or are skeptical of Tampa Bay, I urge you to come down and experience it firsthand - you won't regret it.


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2019 Southeast Capital Landscape – Full Report

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


Southeast Capital Landscape 2019


Typically when seeking funding, founders will look to traditional tech hubs like New York or San Fransisco. But as the startup world changes rapidly, capital resources are becoming more available in growing regions. Cue the Southeast region. Embarc Collective, in collaboration with ModernCapital, Launch Tennessee and HQ1, developed a comprehensive resource of available capital resources across the Southeast with data aggregated from PwC MoneyTree Reports, BIP Capital, and Crunchbase. This project also includes insights about capital growth in this region as well as capital resources by industry and stage from accelerator to private equity.


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Featured Founder: Oren Milstein of StemRad

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Oren Milstein, Co-Founder and CEO of StemRad, a developer and manufacturer of personal protective equipment (PPE) for radiation.


What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I was in the last stages of my postdoctoral studies in San Diego. While I was fascinated with the basic science I was involved in, I felt like I had something practical to contribute. Then, in 2011, the tsunami struck Japan and caused devastation of the nuclear reactor complex in Fukushima. That was my call to action.


What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

We are solving one of the most considerable threats on human health in the modern age. Radiation is in proliferation mode, be it for energy, medicine or for military purposes. We have solutions that mitigate that threat, while also enabling surprising outcomes, like human space exploration into deep space, where radiation is also a concern. I'm excited to make a change I can see and feel.


Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was my fear. Can I make something nobody else has? Will I be able to raise funds without a business background?


Where do you see your company headed next?

Well, we are already headed to places I couldn't have imagined only three years ago- we are going to the International Space Station this summer and around the Moon in 2020. Besides that, we are now entering the medical field with an outstanding solution for doctors operating in cath labs. All this while continuing to expand our sales into the first responder/nuclear energy market.


Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

If you think the world needs your solution, never give up. It will be very hard but, as Gandhi said, "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win"


Learn more about StemRad on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.


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Featured Founder: Jason Grinstead of Metasense Analytics

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Jason Grinstead, CEO of Metasense Analytics, a data pipeline and analytics software that enables companies to unlock the value in their healthcare data. 


What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I was CFO of a care management and analytics company, which identified high-risk patient populations and enrolled them into care management programs that helped them lead healthier lives. I was also owner and CEO of a home health agency that leveraged technology to create a "hospital in the home" and provide complex care for children and adults with challenging health conditions.

I was inspired to launch Metasense because I saw how hard it was for healthcare companies to interchange their data and gain truly useful actionable insights from their analytics unless they had huge budgets.

Metasense makes powerful healthcare analytics software available to all companies so they can make sense of their health data and improve clinical and financial performance.


What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Unlike retail, financial services, manufacturing and logistics, the healthcare sector is just starting to truly leverage its rapidly growing data assets. Companies across the healthcare continuum are under pressure to deliver actionable insights that enable them to compete better, improve health and impact their bottom line. Metasense's software delivers rapidly implemented data pipeline and analytics solutions that solve this problem for them. For example, our new BenefitsVision software delivers powerful health plan analytics that enables employers to better manage their employee health of the fastest growing expenses in their P&L.

I'm a very mission-driven person, and I am constantly seeking ways to positively impact the way we deliver healthcare in the U.S. Personally, bringing a product like BenefitsVision into the world, that can influence the healthcare of 108 million people, is a highly motivating and rewarding endeavor.


Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

We deal in technically complex solutions, and the biggest challenge we have faced in launching this company has been learning how to communicate the benefits of our solutions to non-technical customer decision makers. As a result, we have adjusted our product design, marketing messaging, and sales approach. We are leveraging our underlying data pipeline software to deliver rapidly implemented end-user solutions with powerful analytics impact.


Where do you see your company headed next?

We have just launched our newest healthcare analytics solution, BenefitsVision, which is designed for employers to gain precise, actionable insights into their employee health benefits spend. We’re currently developing some fantastic enhancements to the software that will roll out soon to bring even more value to these customers.


Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

Tend your friendships and relationships as you would a delicate sprouting plant. As a startup entrepreneur, it is easy to let other priorities overwhelm relationships in the short term, but don’t discount them. Over my career, you’ll be amazed at the incredible and unexpected ways in which nurtured relationships have paid off...often many years later.


Learn more about Metasense Analytics on LinkedIn.


Reliving the Magic of the Bus: Everything You Need to Know About Rise of the Rest’s Stop in Tampa Bay


On May 1st, AOL co-founder Steve Case brought a national delegation of entrepreneurs, investors, and other stakeholders to Tampa Bay for the Rise of the Rest (ROTR) Tour. Now on his eighth tour, Rise of the Rest has become a key indicator that a community is on the rise, and on May 1st, the spotlight shined on our region. If you missed any of the day's events or just want to relive it again, see below:

ROTR8TB Highlights:

  • We're Gonna Need a Bigger Room: We were the fastest region to reach venue capacity for the public fireside chat and pitch competition. The ROTR team realized we'd need a bigger space for the engaged Tampa Bay audience after all of the tickets were claimed in just two days. Luckily, Connectwise stepped in and offered space so that 2x the crowd could participate (600+ people).


  • $100K for IMMERTEC: After hearing compelling pitches from 8 Tampa Bay-based startups, the Rise of the Rest team awarded the $100K investment to IMMERTEC, a real-time 3D VR communications platform that allows professionals to seamlessly train, consult, and observe any time, anywhere.


  • We Trended: Both the #ROTR8 and #ROTR8TB hashtags were trending in Florida thanks to the community doing its part to share our region's startup story.

The Path Forward

  • Let's Do 20 in 10: During the fireside chat, Jeff Vinik noted, "We can't accomplish twenty years of progress overnight, but we can do our best to make twenty years of progress in ten years." We can't see May 1st as an endpoint, but as time to reflect on the progress to date and the work ahead. Let's continue to be ambitious and focused on realizing our region's potential and how that can positively drive the startup community.



Press Coverage from the Day:

Florida's pitch for growth: more diversity

Tech legend brings investment competition to area
Business Observer

Steve Case And “The Rise of the Rest”
Chief Executive

AOL's co-founder wants to show the nation Florida is good for startups
Tampa Bay Business Journal

How Ybor startup AbleNook got a stop on the national Rise of the Rest tour
Tampa Bay Business Journal

Take the Rise of the Rest tour in Tampa with AOL co-founder Steve Case (Photos)
Tampa Bay Business Journal

‘Startups Are Like Hockey:’ Advice From AOL Co-Founder Steve Case
Tampa Bay Inno

The Tampa VR Company That Won $100,000 from a National Tour
Tampa Bay Inno

Rise of the Rest brings its focus on startups to Tampa Bay, awards IMMERTEC $100,000
Tampa Bay Times

Column: The startup revolution is thriving in Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Times

Top 8 Moments of being on the Rise of the Rest 8.0 Bus
Tampa Bay Wave

Exclusive: On the Rise of the Rest bus with Steve Case
St. Pete Catalyst

What the Rise of the Rest means for talent in Tampa Bay
St. Pete Catalyst

Insiders tell how Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest came to Tampa
St. Pete Catalyst

Kriseman unveils Entrepreneur-in-Residence program at Rise of the Rest kickoff
St. Pete Catalyst

Why Steve Case is bringing Revolution’s Rise of the Rest to Tampa
St. Pete Catalyst

Tampa startup Immertec wins Rise of the Rest pitch competition
83 Degrees Media


Social Media Coverage:

Pitch Competition Live Stream Pt. 1
Pitch Competition Live Stream Pt. 2
Embarc Collective

#ROTR8TB: Recap of Rise of the Rest in Tampa Bay
Embarc Collective

Fireside Chat with Steve Case and Jeff Vinik Live Stream
Embarc Collective

Rise of the Rest Tampa Bay Recap Video
Rise of the Rest

Rise of the Rest with Steve Case comes to Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Wave




Featured Founder: Kevin Makati of DocClocker

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Kevin Makati, Co-Founder of DocClocker, a digital platform that brings transparency to the waiting room for patients and improves care delivery efficiency for hospitals and providers.


What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I’ve spent the last decade as a cardiologist and physician executive managing a private practice, and serving on the founding board of directors for the local healthcare system’s first clinically integrated network which now manages a medical spend of over $1 billion covering 168,000 patient lives. Over the years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to train at Wash U and Tufts in Boston under the former senior advisor of Medicare Evidence Development for CMS. The experiences would set the stage to create DocClocker and DOC-OR.

The timing could not have been better. I started working in Tampa at a time when the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality had formalized a survey tool to assess the patient’s experience as they navigated through the hospital environment, named HCAHPS. In other words, for the first time, the government decided we should objectively measure the patient’s experiences and report that publicly to encourage consumers to make smart decisions on where they go and who they see. After practicing for several years I made the acquaintance of my co-founder Eric Carter who worked in family medicine. His expertise beyond medicine included hospital-based quality measures and enterprise level EMR integration for a large healthcare organization. We both recognized the need for improvement in the healthcare delivery process and shared a passion to help patients and improve their healthcare experience.

And then the pivotal event happened. . . The area where the newly built hospital we practiced at started blossoming after recovering from the housing crash induced recession. The demand for services outpaced what we could provide and the one element in healthcare that we continue to struggle with just got exponentially worse . . . waiting for healthcare providers in the office, booking appointments, and the frustration experienced in the waiting room of the hospital’s OR. We took to task and together we created an enterprise-grade, fully scalable and HIPAA compliant software solution that actually improves the patient experience.


What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

At some point in time, everyone on the planet will experience the triumphs and failures of the healthcare delivery process. The satisfaction and disappointments are largely contingent on the wait and the waiting room and the inaccessibility of seeing a healthcare provider when you need them in short order. DocClocker and DOC-OR seek to bring transparency to the waiting room by 1. Letting patients know how long the wait time is before arriving at the office, 2. Allowing patients to book appointments online without needing to stay on the phone while also knowing the current provider wait times in real time, and 3. Allowing operating room staff to provide updates during procedures to loved ones in the waiting room or around the world using a secure smartphone-based app. After implementing the software in the office and hospital environment we followed Facebook posts on the experiences and comments made by family members about the comfort they received using the software. The emotion and joy they felt was moving. What motivates us is the impact we can make on our patients by improving their experience as they traverse a horrible segment of the healthcare delivery process . . . the waiting room.


Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

There are reasons why technological advancements have lagged so far behind in healthcare. The healthcare environment is notoriously bureaucratic and because of a general misunderstanding of what constitutes a data breach of patient information, a fear to innovate. What we have discovered as a result is implementing new workflows and technological improvements in healthcare requires a long vetting process. To work around these obstacles we have made strategic partnerships with vendors who are already in the hospital environments to shorten this vetting process as the administrations have preexisting relationships we can leverage.


Where do you see your company headed next?

Our company’s mission is to improve the patient experience. To that end, we continue to look for opportunities that aid the patient as they navigate the healthcare continuum. Our appointment booking application with waiting time surveillance provides both patient and provider the opportunity to maximize their idle times and will be the next strategic focus for our company. As physicians, we have an intimate understanding of the practice environment and the practice of medicine. As such, our offerings are patient and provider friendly and oriented. Our software provides a strong value proposition to providers by maximizing unused office time seeing patients while also providing patients the ability to see a provider when they need one. In the hospital setting, our products provide actual tools to help improve the patient experience and affect publicly reported satisfaction scores with downstream implications on revenue.


Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

Great products require well-run businesses to sell, support, and improve them. At some point, the innovator must evolve into the businessperson. Finding professional mentors in this respect can assist in this evolution. We were fortunate to have collaborated early with a C-suite veteran in a global energy firm to help us focus on running a business in addition to innovating a product. The easy mistake for a new startup to make is to forget simple business principles because of the emotion behind creating a product you truly love and believe in. Business is competition and losing objectivity and the obvious but sometimes forgotten tenant of commerce . . . to sell goods and services for profit, can mean the difference between a successful company vs. a great product that never reached the greater market. Identify a mentor with demonstrated success that will help you run a business.


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How Tampa Convinced Me To Stay


I first arrived in Tampa for my freshman year of undergrad at The University of Tampa (UT). I was an eager (and very nervous) 18-year-old from Massachusetts, and, like most people in a new city, I felt uprooted and disoriented. I was entering a time in life that has the pressure to define the personal values and passions that will guide some of life's biggest personal and professional decisions.

My immediate challenge was "where to start". I came to UT with a deep interest for community service, and I was fortunate to quickly find UT's PEACE Volunteer Center. There, I led the 16 student-staff office and immersed myself in local and global issues that were important to me — from short volunteer trips to The Sustainable Living Project in Seminole Heights to a 14-day service trip in the Amazon Rainforest focused on community development strategies. Each experience fueled my interest in experiential learning and community-building — I cultivated tactics on generating group cohesion, asking the difficult questions that push others to reflect and grow, identifying the dynamics between people and the structures they operate within, creating solutions that achieve long-term impact, and developed a comfort tackling big problems. By no means did I have the answers, but I enjoyed each moment of those experiences and knew I wanted to infuse a similar mindset in my coursework.

Academically, my interest in experiential learning and community-building led me to major in Entrepreneurship where I began to comprehend the science of understanding and testing new approaches to the problems I was trying to solve. I worked with a small handful of startups mapped to my personal passions nurtured by community service, from a consumer product designed to inspire connection with nature, to a platform for students to reduce waste and monetize their skills. I oftentimes found myself caring just as much about the strength and durability of the startup team as I did the actual success of the product. Because of this, I searched for the resources needed to support the teams I worked with, and I gained exposure to Tampa's entrepreneurial community. I saw the strengths — a network of startups and advocates offering unconditional support, wisdom, and camaraderie — and the deficits — siloed support systems, low opportunity density, and isolation from non-local markets. Combined, the energizing dynamic deepened my passion for entrepreneurship, and I knew I wanted to professionally support the areas of our community that needed bolstering.

It was at this intersection — community and entrepreneurship — that I found my fire. After 800 hours of community service and many sleepless nights working in startups, I learned that the passion for volunteerism is often times in parallel with the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the founder to throw themselves into creating a solution to their problem. With little money, you build, test, and scale your product. Both the volunteer and the entrepreneur rely on support organizations to reach towards success, and the vibrancy of our communities are oftentimes directly dependent on the strength of our respective support organizations. And it was there — in Tampa Bay's entrepreneur support system — that I realized where I wanted to exist. Not only did I find my Tampa Bay community, but, more importantly, I found my role within that community.

That's why — when I graduated in May — it was an easy decision for me to stay in Tampa. While I saw the majority of my classmates move back home or to another state to pursue their career, my roots had dug deep into the Tampa soil, and I wasn’t going anywhere. Just as Tampa had served as the medium for my personal exploration, I was ready to commit my future in my new home.

At the time of graduation, I didn’t have a clear next step, but in true Tampa fashion the city quickly manifested an incredible opportunity; enter Embarc Collective, the nonprofit that helps Tampa Bay's startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies. What's so energizing about Embarc Collective is that it delivers customized support that serves the real-time needs of startup teams — delivering consistent, customized, quality support — the perfect place for me to contribute to our community.

I am excited to now be part of the Embarc Collective team — heading up customer success — where I’ll blend my passion for community building and entrepreneurship to help co-create and support our energetic, disruptive, hard-working, collaborative, and embracing community. If Embarc Collective seems like a community you’d like to learn more about, drop me a line, and I’d be happy to chat.