Monthly Archives: July 2019


Embarc Collective Reopens Membership Application

Embarc Collective is an innovation hub that helps Tampa Bay's startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies. Since launching in March of this year, Embarc Collective has been supporting the teams behind 25 startups. In these first few months, we've gone all in to deliver our mission to the startups we support.

  • Companies served by Embarc Collective: 25
  • Individuals served by Embarc Collective: 89
  • Coaching Hours to Date: 266
  • Coaching Hours Per Company: 10.64
  • Function-specific workshops: 17

Behind the scenes, we've been continually testing and tweaking our programmatic offering to match the specific needs of the startups we serve. And with our physical 32,000 square foot state-of-the-art space opening at the end of the year in downtown Tampa, we're now excited to announce that we're ready to support additional early-stage technology startups.


Who should apply?

We encourage early-stage startups building technology-enabled software solutions to apply for membership. Our criteria outlines the types of startups that will benefit the most from Embarc Collective membership. We evaluate each startup's potential and viability and assess if our support matches the specific startup needs to ultimately determine fit.


What does startup membership to Embarc Collective mean?

Upon acceptance to Embarc Collective, companies receive individualized support delivered by our staff of executive advisors and function-specific experts. Embarc Collective takes no equity in the companies that it supports—instead, companies pay a highly subsidized monthly fee to access the support and space of Embarc Collective.


What are the benefits?

  • On-going coaching from an Embarc Collective Executive Advisor, an experienced startup operator who can help with function-specific goals.
  • Access to a team of specialists from Embarc Collective, in collaboration with their Executive Advisor, who can help with function-specific goals (e.g., sales & customer pipeline development, marketing, PR, content development, talent strategy, data & insights management, product, investor prospecting).
  • Weekly function-specific workshops led by local and national industry experts — all designed to boost the skills of the whole team.
  • Work in close proximity with other builders who also seek a continuous learning environment (opening later in 2019).
  • Founders and their teams can headquarter and build their ventures out of the Embarc Collective space.


When will this all be available to new companies accepted to Embarc Collective?

We will be reviewing and accepting companies on a rolling basis, which means companies that are offered membership can begin receiving support before our physical space opens at the end of the year.


Where Can I Learn More?

Learn more about Embarc Collective and apply for membership here.



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Growth Story: Ben David of Chattr

Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup team members—either natives, boomerangs or transplants—in Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Ben David, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder of Chattr, formerly HireHumanly, a home care recruiting platform that sources, screens and schedules top applicants automatically. 


Where are you from?

I'm from Rochester, NY and moved to Tampa 10 years ago for a job opportunity.


Tell us more about your role at Chattr. What does a day in the life look like?

I'm the Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Chattr, so really that means I work on anything that needs to get done throughout the day. Specific to my role I spend a lot of my time on our product strategy, things like talking to customers, getting feedback on the product, working with our developers on how we can continually improve our product.

We are a small company, so we contribute to operations, marketing, sales, etc.  Whatever we need to get done.


How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?

Before Chattr, I spent about 10 years working for a few different technology vendors in enterprise IT.  I started in an inside sales bull pen and then in fields sales.  I've worked on product management teams, and had the opportunity to work on two product launches early in my career.  I've also worked on marketing, go-to-market implementation and channel management. I guess you can say I've done a little of everything in that IT/Enterprise tech space. My biggest challenge was that I hated the corporate life and the structure. I've always had that entrepreneurial itch, so working in silos that move slowly with bad communication was tough.  That was the biggest struggle for me in the corporate setting. You don't really know how to make an impact outside your own little bubble. When I began with Chattr, there was a pretty abrupt change realizing "ok, I have to do that."   Determining what to do, how to take things one day at a time and build a business outside of a big corporate support structure.  It is a big adjustment.


How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?

Early on, I kinda felt like the Tampa startup scene was all talk. In this region, there's a lot of events and organizations and articles about startups, but I always felt the actual founders and companies took a back seat to all of that. Now I feel like we're in the first era of really great local startups.  I think Embarc deserves a lot of credit for giving the community some juice. What I learned in Tampa is that there are a lot of talented people here but they are dispersed around the region. You have to work a little harder to find a developer resource or someone who's really great at growth marketing or other entrepreneurs that are great at what they do. Things here are very spread out. There's a lot of great ideas and people here but you need to be as resourceful as you can be to make it happen. It isn't  San Francisco, New York or Boston but there are resources here. Being scrappy is key. Entrepreneurs in Tampa require a lot of grit because there aren't too many glamours aspects of building here. But if you put the work in, a lot of great things can happen.


What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?

There are three things that I really try to focus on:

  • Manage to your company values. If you're a values-led organization it makes the decision-making process so much easier.
  • Be obsessed with customer service. Overdeliver where you can.
  • You've got to be smart enough to recognized your opportunities. Make the most of your chances.


Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?

Like I mentioned before, I feel like we're in this first era of great startups in Tampa. We've got a long way to go to be the startup hub we all want it to be. I feel like the founders and their teams today will be the group that really helps push Tampa forward and be the ambassadors needed to help grow this market.  Founders have a credibility with other founders that you can't manufacture.  Personally, I want to build Chattr and make it a huge success here and then hopefully be lucky enough to build a few more hugely successful companies in Tampa. I think paying it forward is important. Successful founders of this generation can help the next group and so on. I'm very optimistic about this region especially after meeting some of the teams building companies here over the past year. Generating the momentum and sharing the momentum is key.


Learn more about Chattr on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn



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Why Your Website Plan Should Include a Sitemap

It’s tempting to jump into the nitty-gritty of the design and development stage of a new website launch project. Before getting too deep into the weeds, you’ll need to develop a sitemap during the first stage of your website project. Doing so will ensure you have a solid foundation for your new website, and users will be able to easily navigate through webpages.


What Is a Sitemap?

The word “sitemap” can apply in two different contexts. When website developers talk about sitemaps, they’re usually referring to the technical architecture that helps search engines like Google crawl the website and determine if the content matches what people are looking for. These technical roadmaps, also called XML sitemaps, are important components of a search engine optimization strategy because they point search engines to the pages you want people to see.

The second type of sitemap is a visual structure of your website’s content. It’s a plan that will act as the groundwork for all future steps in the website development process. If your new website was a building, think of a visual sitemap as a blueprint. This article will focus on the visual sitemap.


Going Beyond the Main Navigation Menu

Many websites feature similar navigation structures that include a Home page, About page, Main Product/Services page, and/or Contact page. While planning the sitemap for your startup’s website, you’ll want to take a deeper dive into the additional pages that will live underneath these sections.

For inspiration on the type of content and pages you should be adding to your sitemap, take a look at some of your top competitors and research relevant search queries surrounding your solutions. You might find adding extra content pages such as FAQs or other story elements might make sense for your sitemap. This can also help you understand how to make your navigation stand out from other sites with similar offerings.

Here’s an example of a sitemap. The main navigation directs users to important areas of the website, such as solutions and sample work pages, but a full sitemap breakdown (like the one pictured below) gives you an idea of where other planned content will fall in line.


Questions to Ask When Making a Sitemap

It takes critical thinking and planning to develop your website’s foundation. To get the most out of your sitemap, ask the following questions:

  • Why are people visiting my website?
  • What actions do I want users to take once they land on my website?
  • Which webpages are most important?
  • Which subpages (also known as child pages) correlate with the main pages?
  • How can I make my website as easy to navigate as possible?


Tools for Creating a Sitemap

Once you’ve answered the questions that will help you plan an effective sitemap, you need a tool to create the site structure. There are many sitemap creation tools available online, some of them even free. Here are some of the best tools for making a sitemap:

  • Writemaps – This basic sitemap creation tool is intuitive, and it doesn’t take much time to start mapping out your new website. They offer a free option as well as professional and premium plans that range from $15 to $30 a month.
  • DYNO Mapper – With five different sitemap styles and color options, DYNO Mapper offers more customizable sitemap creation options. Plans start at $40 a month and include site crawling features, content planning and more.
  • Slickplan – The sitemap builder is just one of the features Slickplan offers. It also provides content planning, diagram and mock-up tools. Pricing ranges from $9 to $90 a month.
  • Powermapper – Powermapper lets users create sitemaps using various styles and configurations. The visual sitemap function is available in their various suites. Pricing ranges from $149 to $499 for a single user license.


Next Steps After a Visual Sitemap

Once you’ve mapped the content that needs to live on your website, you should take a deeper dive and assess each parent page and child page. Decide where important chunks of information, or modules, should live on each page and how the pages link among each other. It might take several passes to get everything living where you want it, but you should have a good idea of where modules belong before you tackle other aspects of your website project such as deciding which content management system to use and reviewing page design mock-ups.

Creating a sitemap is an important part of your website plan that helps ensure a smooth website development process. Give this step some serious thought for the success of your new website and startup.

Our partners at Bayshore Solutions contributed this guest post.



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Growth Story: Sierra Harlan of IMMERTEC

Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup team members—either natives, boomerangs or transplants—in Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Sierra Harlan, Executive Assistant at IMMERTEC, a real-time 3D VR communications platform that allows professionals to seamlessly train, consult, and observe any time, anywhere.


Where are you from?

Tampa Bay Native- Born in Maine, moved here in Elementary school after my parents left the military, basically a Native.


Tell us more about your role at IMMERTEC. What does a day in the life look like?

One of my favorite parts about the EA role is that every single day is vastly different from the next. There is a lot of movement in my role which is the exact environment I require. I usually start my morning by reviewing what the day holds with my CEO Erik Maltais and spend the rest of it adapting to change and keeping him on track so he can focus on the needs of our team, customers and investors. As our company moves through phases so do my responsibilities. In the beginning I could usually be found at investor meetings absorbing the art of my CEO’s pitch, outside of these meetings, constant evolution of his pitch with our team, finding opportunities to pitch and managing daily communication is a small part of what I do.


How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?

I met the Immertec team at a local tech event and fell in love with the problem we solve. Immertec saw a need to deliver better access to physician training and developed a solution to address the issue in an innovative way. I knew I wanted to get involved and simply began by asking what they needed help with and if they were willing to give me an opportunity. It seemed like such a big ask, it took a lot of courage and rehearsal on my end but it is one of the best questions I have ever asked!

Getting involved with a company at ground level offers many opportunities in what seems likes a hundred different directions, picking just one to focus on was a huge challenge when you want to solve all problems. I quickly learned this was not a realistic goal and when everything is important, nothing is important.

Early on our team was small and spare time from teammates was limited. Of course they all tried to guide me when they could, but diving in at early stage as I am sure most can relate requires a lot of “figuring it out”.   We have since grown, added new talent, and built a wonderful team of people who all contribute their talents in very impactful ways. This led to an evolution of my place in the company and I now find myself in a position that is tailor-made to my strengths.


How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?

The Tampa Bay area doesn't have the kind of "startup" culture you might find in bigger tech cities.  I like that people here commit themselves to a project and do so earnestly. There's a freedom that comes with this ability to rely on your team and trust their resolve and dedication. I feel that our company is able to build a strong team because we feel a sense of community, both to each other and Tampa at large.


What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?

It’s okay that you cannot DO EVERYTHING. When I started, my ambition naturally made me want to take on the world and do it all effectively. This is not realistic. Find the areas you are great at and give your all to that role, permit room for others to be strong in the places you are weak.


Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?

I know my role as a facilitator, organizer and communicator contributes to the daily success of our team and that success is helping to gain recognition for our efforts in Tampa and beyond. Recently Tampa was named one of the top 5 places in the United States to start a business by CNBC. Startups can and do come from Tampa Bay and now the rest of the country is taking notice of the innovation and developments in the area. The recognition will benefit the local startup community and bring new opportunities we can’t even imagine yet.


Learn more about IMMERTEC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn



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Growth Story: Patrick Maguire of Pocket Network

Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup team members—either natives, boomerangs or transplants—in Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Patrick Maguire, Director of Marketing for Pocket Network, a platform for developers to connect any app, on any blockchain, to any device with one line of code.


Where are you from?



Tell us more about your role at Pocket Network. What does a day in the life look like?

Sure thing, a day in the life of Director of Marketing for Pocket Network is quite a full and exciting one. Before I dive into work, it may be beneficial for Tampa Bay entrepreneurs who venture into St. Pete to know where some of the best cafes to work out of are xD.

I typically start my day either at Black Crow Coffee on Grand Central or Grass Roots Kava House for my morning coffee.

A solid percentage of my time is spent revising and refining the strategy as new data and insights come in, and then working with the team to brainstorm, plan and execute on directives that may deliver key results outlined at the beginning of each quarter.

At the beginning of a new quarter, I will spend time with each team member, on an individual basis looking at last quarters OKRs, our monthly progress, what worked, what didn’t and why, and then look at next quarter to define the objectives and key results.

The system I am referencing for goals and alignment is called OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) and is a great system for aligning the entire company, in all departments around key objectives and key results. If you have never heard of OKRs, I recommend you check out the book “Measure what Matters”. This system is more inclusive then strict product KPI’s which does not allow every person on the team to feel that they are directly impacting these results (finance or operations for example).

It’s the job of both the leadership and the team members to tie in individual OKRs, with department OKRs, with company OKRs so that the key results for the company are reached in order for it to progress.

For example, one of the company Objectives for Pocket Network for the year has to do with demonstrating platform usage, which is measured in API requests through the network. Because of this alignment on objectives, and constant reflection on the strategies and execution tactics, the leadership made a decision to take 1 Month, and shift all dev resources to acting as solutions architects for prospective partners; the Objective Key Result being, “Confirm 5 Integrations that Pocket Dev Team will work on. “

Boy did that work! In that Month we got integrations to 4 major wallet providers, 1 notable DApp Interface, 2 blockchains, and 1 very important full-node project. I could list out all of the details here but it may be best to check out our latest newsletter for more information.

At the beginning of the week, I work with the marketing team to craft goals for the week and unblock anything in their path in our weekly standup and meetings that follow.

At this phase in Pocket's Marketing, we are primarily focused on content, partnerships, and community development. I would not be able to consider myself a leader if I wasn’t in the trenches every day.

Other than strategy, analysis, and team collaboration, I spend my time creating content and engaging with the community. I create content in all forms, I take meetings of all kinds, I have long conversations with prospective community members, and battle trolls if need be. (which doesn’t happen often in Pocket, luckily).


How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?

For as long as I can remember I knew that I needed to be an entrepreneur, and because I didn’t have any money or powerful connections I knew that I had to learn sales and marketing. I spent my early years trying to start minor companies, doing my own sales and marketing and learning as much as could through experience, good podcasts and books.

I got a job at a local marketing agency where I had the opportunity to learn and grow my skill set as a digital marketer. I spent about 2 years there and quickly became a senior level marketing manager.

But, as I stated early, working at an agency was not my goal. My dream has always been to be a part of this new wave of community-centric systems and tools to empower the next renaissance. It was in that hunger for more that I began to learn about blockchains, and smart contracts, this was when the project Ethereum first came out. It took me a few months from truly understanding Ethereum to make the jump.

I had nothing, no savings, no fallback, but I knew I had to try. So I put in my two weeks, and slept on my sister's coach for the next year (thanks, Lauren and Chris). I did nothing but trench work (probably why I am biased towards trench work). No friendly get-togethers, no female attention, just research, creating, having conversations, hitting dead ends, and a few opportunities that I attacked like a mad man.

This is where one of my mottos really solidified into my bones - “Be Undeniable.”

It took months of dedication and free work to start to get noticed by projects in the space. Eventually, I had a few options on the table, all of which were part-time with no guarantees, but I decided to take another risk and go with a blockchain project that looked at the time like it had a lot of upsides. I worked in every marketing capacity for this project, and every community capacity you can think of. The thing about a lot of blockchain projects is this undercurrent of “Decentralized Governance”, “Cooperativism” and non-hierarchical organization.

This all sounds beautiful in theory, but practically (unless executed perfectly), it results in a few people carrying the whole project on their shoulders. I was one of the people. But at this time I had nothing to lose, was building a reputation and confidence, so I got into the right uncomfortable conversations and once funding was secured I negotiated a full-time job with the project.

The next two years were the hardest and most fruitful learning experiences of my life. I got to see first hand, nearly every situation that a blockchain project would run into and was hands-on in solving a lot of the problems. I traveled all over the states and into Europe, furthering my reputation as “that tenacious young guy that makes s*%t happen.” and picked up a few mentors along the way. By “picked up” I mean hounded them constantly and worked as a glorified intern for them until I earned their trust and respect.

Three of those people that I got close within my time at that project were Michael O’Rourke (Pocket CEO and Co-Founder), Brent Fisher (Pocket’s first angel investor and mentor of mine), and Chris Williams (might be the best blockchain engineer in Tampa Bay, currently at IBM Hyperledger). We would all go to Green Bench brewery with the rest of the Tampa Bay blockchain crew, get drunk, and talk shop.

So finally, when the project that I was working with was no longer aligned with my goals, I resigned.

No more than two weeks later, Michael comes knocking and asks me to come work with Pocket Network. So here I am!

Key takeaways from that long-winded self-indulgent story.

  • You’ve got to risk it for the biscuit.
  • Thrive or die in the trenches.
  • Be undeniable.
  • Go and get your mentors.


How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?

Because the Blockchain community is a fairly tight-knit, for my personal career being in the Tampa Bay community has been helpful. I really enjoy the local entrepreneurship scene in St. Petersburg and it has helped me to create a lifestyle that I know other upstarts would love to have.


What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?

The Cliche: Follow your passion.

Work on your weakness’ but double down on your talents. Build or join a team that can cover your blind spots.

Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything.

Simplify. Measure what Matters. Critical > Wishful thinking.

If you are not an artist, then you are a servant. Find your ideal customers and build around them. Turn 1 True Customer into 10, then into 100, then into 1000.

Don’t get bogged down with debt or high overhead so you have the freedom to take risks.

Eliminate toxic relationships, old friends, family, girls, boys, bosses. Out with the old to make room for the new.

Thrive or die in the trenches.

Be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Practice it. It’ll take you a lifetime if you just wait for someone to give you what you want.

Go and get your mentors.


Don’t have an hour meeting if it can be done on slack in 5 minutes. Manage your time.

Give up on crappy projects or ideas, but never give up on yourself.


Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?

Tampa Bay is my home, born and raised and I love it with all my heart, as for the future I am active and hopeful, but my feelings are mixed. My answer may be bittersweet, but I'll go ahead and say what I honestly feel, hopefully inspiring some action.

We have a vision of being this next mecca, and culturally we are showing signs of that. We have a unique position as a region with offers and amenities that are very hard to compete with. local businesses, national sports, big/small cities, hipster hangouts, beaches, rivers, festivals, international airports, etc. It’s fertile soil to work with.

Some days I feel like we are taking strides toward this new style of progress, other days I feel like it's a show. Maybe the history and diversity of interests make it difficult to appease everyone at once, maybe I just don’t know enough. Most likely it’s that these things take time.

Some people say that there are more condos then opportunities in development. I say make your own opportunities, but I don’t write those feelings off. I want to see us develop like the next, more improved Berlin.

From a tech startup perspective, we are progressing, but I must admit, that we have a long way to go if we intend to compete with other majors cities.

Embarc Collective will do great things to help this cause, I have no doubt about that as I have seen first hand what they are already doing without a facility and I’m very impressed.

But I do believe that if we are to nurture tech startups, to land unicorns that young people brag about working for, we have to be able to make high-risk investments quickly. We need a larger angel investment network.

How do I play a role? I already am out here every day contributing to the local community in many ways. But explicitly, the current plan is, make Pocket the first blockchain-unicorn in Tampa Bay and then work to push the culture forward through different activities and spaces for our peers — the visionaries, builders, entrepreneurs, and artists. More hammocks and shade trees, more raw materials, more speakeasies, random water balloon fights, pop-up concerts, late-night coding, things like that.

Thank you for taking the time to read to this point!


Learn more about Pocket Network on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium



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Growth Story: Bo Starr of Grifin

Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup team members—either natives, boomerangs or transplants—in Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Bo Starr, Co-Founder and COO of Grifin, a patent-pending technology that lets you automatically buy stock where you shop.


Where are you from?


I guess that makes me a transplant, but my extended family on both sides has always lived in Tampa. So I would visit pretty close to once a month for the majority of my life.


Tell us more about your role at Grifin. What does a day in the life look like?

As COO, I work with everybody on our team to ensure they have the tools they need to achieve success. I work heavily with just about everything that our business does. Right now I’m mostly working on marketing analytics, SEC compliance, product management, design, and financial projections.


How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?

My dad helped me make my first investment when I was 13, so it’s always been a huge part of my life. When I got to college, I looked around and realized that most people my age actually have no idea how to invest or what the stock market really is. I was kind of surprised by that because I was surrounded by really smart people that are going to go on to be doctors and lawyers and engineers, but they’re going to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. So right around my 21st birthday, I realized I’m in a unique position to do something about it. I decided to create an app that in some way helps people gain the confidence to invest. Early on, it was tough to hold my own in conversations with “adults.” Up until that point in my life they had always been authority figures in some way, typically as parents or teachers. When I realized that I actually know more about my specific domain than most adults, business got a lot easier.


How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?

Grifin moved to Tampa in late February of this year. Since coming here we’ve grown significantly as a team and as individuals. The area is full of smart people that have pushed us further. The biggest problem is finding the right people at the right time! That one problem is why organizations like Embarc are so helpful. Any time we’re facing a challenge that we need to solve, we know that somebody on the Embarc team can point us in the right direction.


What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?

Consistent, incremental improvements lead to transformational change. In order to take massive leaps forward, you have to take small steps every day. It’s often very hard to see the changes happen in real time, but when you look back six months you’ll see just how far you’ve come. Improving 1% per week for a year leads to nearly double the results! This applies both to life and investing. :slightly_smiling_face:


Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?

The Tampa Bay area is full of beaches, sports, and smart people. There’s not much more that I look for in a region! I expect Grifin to be here for the foreseeable future, both hiring local people and relocating new employees to the area. It would be cool to have our name one of the office buildings downtown, right next to Regions and Suntrust.


Learn more about Grifin on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Pinterest



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