Monthly Archives: October 2020


Let’s Eliminate the Glaring Gap


Nationally it's known that women entrepreneurs operate with less capital and over fewer funding rounds than men. We also know that the volume of tech entrepreneurs is much lower when comparing women to men. We had hypotheses on why, but we wanted to qualify the extent of the problem, specifically in the state of Florida.

At Embarc Collective, we believe in the adage "a problem measured is half solved." With a deeper understanding of why there are such differences in tech entrepreneurship between women and men, we can root how we will be a part of the solution in data. Through the support of JPMorgan Chase, we were able to conduct our own extensive research throughout 2020 to understand the state of tech entrepreneurship for women in Florida. Today we are presenting you with our findings in our inaugural Glaring Gap report.


Access the 2020 Glaring Gap Report


In preparing to share these findings, I've been reviewing the data with our team for months - and I'll be honest, it has been difficult to not get discouraged. For example, although the number of women-founded startups in Florida that raised early-stage venture funding increased over time, they still received a disproportionately small share—12%—of early-stage VC dollars over the course of the decade (nationally it was 13% in 2019).

So in sharing the data, we want to not only outline the state of the problem but also move our community on the road to solutions.


How Can We Start to Eliminate the Glaring Gap?

Increase the Support for Women-Led Startups: Create support channels to help accelerate the growth of women-led businesses. Our partners at Tampa Bay Wave launched the TechWomen Rising accelerator in August and have been working intensively with 13 women founders to hit the critical growth milestones for their respective businesses. We at Embarc Collective have had the chance to check in regularly with these founders as part of our research for the Glaring Gap report and can reinforce that a dedicated program like TechWomen Rising can not only provide key learnings that founders need to scale, but also a peer community and accountability.

Increase the Number of Women Startup Investors in Florida: The startup investment community does not reflect the demographics of our state. As reported in HBR, diverse investment teams do better than homogenous ones.  We need to find pathways to both grow and diversify the investor base in Florida. In our conversations with accredited women investors, we've often heard that not knowing how to evaluate a startup is a major reason that they don't actively invest in early-stage companies. That is why we have identified 50 women to participate our first Glaring Gap Summit. This is an intensive 3-day training that will give these women the tools to thoroughly evaluate a startup investment opportunity. We've confirmed participants at three stages of their investment career:

    • Accredited Investors: Through learning to invest your assets via angel networks or as a Limited Partner in venture funds, Florida has an opportunity to take a substantial lead in the US as a destination for women-led companies to receive investment.
    • Early-Career Professionals: By developing an investment thesis and engaging in alternative investment practices such as equity crowdfunding, you can gain investing frameworks to yourself for investing future assets into technology startups.
    • College Student Leaders: As an active member of your campus entrepreneurship and investing classes and communities, we can exponentially advance the careers of women in venture capital investing in the state of Florida.

Women will learn from active investors, including:

    • Alexa von Tobel, who led her startup LearnVest to a $250M acquisition by Northwestern Mutual and then launched her own venture fund, Inspired Capital
    • Cheryl Campos, who leads growth for equity crowdfunding at Republic, a great way for new and non-accredited investors to get started
    • Samara Hernandez, who launched her own venture fund, Chingona Ventures

The participants of the Glaring Gap Summit will spend the bulk of the training working with Angela Lee, founder of 37 Angels and professor of VC practice at Columbia Business School. Angela will lead 50 women through her due diligence training, which will turn these women's investment potential into reality. The participants of the Glaring Gap Summit will test their skills by attending Tampa Bay Wave's TechWomen Rising Accelerator Demo Day and conducting a diligence process on a company in that cohort before getting feedback from Angela herself.

Create the Commitment: Not investing in half of the population is a problem for all of us. We need to create accountability for our tech community in Florida to make things better.  All participants of the Glaring Gap Summit will sign a pledge to be part of the solution. I hope that you are as motivated by the data in the Glaring Gap Report to create change.  I invite you to commit to being a part of the solution by signing our Pledge to Eliminate the Glaring Gap.

Together, we can make sure that day by day, more women-led startups are being built and see better outcomes.

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Featured Founder: Chris Jones of RB Technologies

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 Chris Jones, CEO of RB Technologies, which establishes transparency and trust in the dietary supplement and food industries through proprietary blockchain technology.

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

Previously, I was working at a biomedical company as a Quality Assurance Specialist and completing a Master of Science in Management with the plan of going into hospital administration as a career. My co-founder, Justin, was taking a gap year in between his second and third years of medical school and was in the same Masters program. Since we both had backgrounds in the medical field, clinical research, and had an interest in technology, we regularly discussed the problems we faced in the medical industry and how that affected the health and wellbeing of the average person. We knew utilizing emerging tech would be a key factor in solving a lot of these issues and decided to take a chance at bringing one of our ideas to life.

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

What most people don’t know is that dietary supplements are not verified by the FDA. It’s been found that up to 80% can be contaminated or do not even contain what is claimed on their labels. Because every single brand advertises itself as “quality”, there is no way for consumers to distinguish the good brands from the bad. In addition to this, 60% of supplement manufacturers are still using paper and pen to document all of their processes, making the whole supply chain paper-based. This antiquated documentation practice and disconnect within the supply chain is one of the leading problems within the industry that results in harm to consumers. RB Technologies is working to solve this problem and ensure safe health products enter the market.

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

Access to resources was the biggest problem we faced. Justin and I had the ideas, but neither of us had any sort of technical knowledge or capital to dedicate to the project. Since we were both students and had a relatively flexible schedule, we spent our free time getting feedback on our idea and finding potential future customers. As we slowly started gaining more interest, small bits of funding and tech talent started to line up as well.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We just finished our MVP and are looking to grow. We’re focused on bringing on more industry partners for the remainder of the year and fully launching our product in early 2021.

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

Get out there and talk to potential customers. It doesn’t matter if you and your friends think you have a great idea. Until you actually get firm commitments and interest from companies/people you will sell your service or product to, don’t start building it. Talk to potential customers, get feedback, listen to their pain points, and adapt and build your idea around that. Too many founders make the mistake of building a product only to find out that it actually doesn’t benefit the companies/individuals they are targeting, and no one will buy it. Don’t make that mistake. Prove your concept through conversations first before dedicating large amounts of time and resources towards it.


Learn more about RB Technologies on LinkedIn.


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Recap: 2020 Southeast CEO Summit #SECEOSummit

This year our CEO Summit looked a bit different – but in doing it virtually, we were able to partner with 13 venture funds to bring together startups from across the Southeast looking at raising an institutional round of funding in the next year. 50 startups participated in bite-sized sessions over the course of 3 days. Thanks to Build In SE for partnering on this event!

Day 1:

We worked with Atlanta-based startup Civic Dinners to bring together founders and investors on the theme of Grief & Gratitude—exploring the self-discovery we’ve made this year and what we’re grateful for now more than ever.

Day 2:

We hosted three sessions with founders and leaders who have successfully built and scaled tech ventures from around the country. Thanks to Slingshow for helping us relieve our Zoom fatigue!

Here are some of the highlights from those discussions:

Investor Panel with Lo Toney (Plexo Capital), Victoria Treyger (Felicis Ventures) and Erik Rannala (Mucker Capital), moderated by Monique Villa (Mucker Capital, Build In SE):



We hosted a Fireside Chat with Matt Salzberg, Founder and Chairman of Blue Apron:



We ended the day with Access Sessions with Jan Seale (former Trunk Club and Havenly), Brian Murphy (ReliaQuest) and Anthony Kennada (Front):



Day 3:

Build In SE curated office hours with top investors from around the country for participating startups, including Bain Capital, Emergence Capital, Greycroft, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Mucker Capital, NEA, Foundation Capital, Foundry Group, Revolution, B Capital Group, Radian Capital and others.


Don’t miss our 2021 CEO Summit! To learn more about membership to Embarc Collective, click here.


Closing the Gap

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


Preview: 2020 Embarc Collective Southeast CEO Summit

As early-startup founders, we find ourselves in the weeds of the business focused on every detail to make sure that we can push the business to demonstrate its traction potential. However, when you’re continually focused in the business (as opposed to on the business), you may lose sight of larger strategic opportunities ahead of you.

That’s why Embarc Collective has built an annual CEO Summit for its startup members, an event dedicated to founder mindset, strategic growth plans and leadership. Last year, we welcomed Elias Torres, CTO of Drift, several startup investors and Jeff Vinik to speak for our first in-person summit.

This year, with the world operating more virtually, we saw it as an opportunity to do things differently. Much of startup support found in the Southeast (including that at Embarc Collective) focuses on the early, seed stage of a startup – however, we have several members who have reached or are soon to planning for an institutional capital raise. So this year, we’re focused on serving CEOs of Embarc Collective member startups who are planning to raise their Series B or C round within the next year. We collaborated with many of our Southeast venture partners – Mucker Capital, Engage, Florida Funders, The Jump Fund, Bull City Venture Partners, Overline, Miami Angels, IDEA Fund Partners, nrv, cofounders capital, Engage, Tech Square Ventures, Calano Ventures – to include their portfolio companies in the Southeast who are in a similar stage to also participate in the Summit. In doing this, we’ll not only expose these attendees to tremendous thought leadership from our nationally-recognized CEO and investor speakers, we’ll also help foster a network of 50+ high-growth CEOs building in the Southeast through interactive sessions.

We are very excited about this line-up of speakers:

In addition, participating CEOs will have access to investor office hours as part of the Summit, facilitated by Build In SE. By bringing investors from Greycroft, Foundry Group, NEA, Stripes Group, Mucker and Foundation Capital among others to the Summit, Southeast CEOs will gain an opportunity to build relationships for future later-stage fundraising rounds.

Having watched my team build this event, I’m proud and excited. This is truly our most impressive Summit yet and not only conveys the quality that Embarc Collective strives for each day, but also will help us put Tampa Bay on the map as we serve later stage Embarc Collective startups members and portfolio companies of Embarc Collective venture partners.

To learn more about membership to Embarc Collective, click here.


Milestone: Reaching 100 Weeks of The Weekly Collective

Today we released the 100th edition of our newsletter, The Weekly Collective. Reaching a milestone like this, 100 consecutive weeks of compiling stories and creating resources for the startup community we serve, oftentimes looks easy from the outside. I wanted to take a moment to share some of the “sausage-making” that goes behind the scenes. I think this transparency gives an appreciation for the amount of teamwork that is required to hit any big or small milestone when building a startup.

Why Did We Build a Newsletter?

Embarc Collective formally announced ourselves in August 2018, started working with startups in March 2019 and opened our physical 32,000 square foot hub in downtown Tampa in January 2020. We’re still in the early days and need to work hard to build brand awareness with the Southeast startup community. A weekly newsletter that focuses on the news, opportunities, and resources for startup teams helps us build awareness and earn credibility as a new brand.

What Have We Learned?

Upon reaching 100 consecutive newsletters, we felt it was appropriate to reflect on lessons learned:

  1. Develop the Discipline: Doing something regularly is a commitment. You feel like you understand what you’re signing up for in Week 1, but you really test your understanding of that commitment in Week 76. There are countless reasons why something like a newsletter – or an investor update or new feature update for users – could get deprioritized and eventually forgotten about. To ensure that the goal to send out a weekly newsletter was sustainable, our team implemented a set schedule for when the draft was completed and the edits were incorporated. We don’t waiver from that schedule – we carve out the space to make sure we stick to it. Our whole team knows that schedule because we each play a role in getting the newsletter out the door on-time (more on that below).
  2. Share the Work: Like most organizations, we have more work than our team can cover, so we have made the Weekly Collective a team responsibility. We collectively seek, read, and share relevant content for the newsletter’s theme of the week. We have an assigned editor that builds the newsletter draft, and we have two team members who edit, link check, and give the final blessing before the week’s edition is shipped. Each member of our small team has their fingerprint on the Weekly Collective each week – and that shared responsibility makes the on-going task less daunting and more sustainable.
  3. Measure Results: Our first edition of The Weekly Collective was in November 2018. From that point, we have been laser-focused on our weekly metrics as we are committed to organically growing our brand awareness (we’re glued to our Hubspot dashboard). We are consistently four times above the average newsletter click-thru rate and three times above the average newsletter open rate. We also have less than half a percent unsubscription rate. Hopefully, this is due to the intentionality that we place into each week’s edition. We share those metrics with our team because they motivate us – it fuels us both when the week’s metrics are high and helps us double-down when we have an off-week. This is a good time to thank you for letting us into your inbox each week and reply to any Weekly Collective email with any feedback or requests.

If you’re not seeing The Weekly Collective in your inbox, sign up here.

Also, be sure to follow us on social media – Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook


Featured Founder: Doug Hill of Real Random

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 Doug Hill, Founder of Real Random, which makes true random numbers and eliminates the need to remember passwords.

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

I worked in land development, beginning as a project manager and progressing to being an independent land developer.  My work included managing risk, project planning and execution, and financial modeling.  I decided to launch Real Random after reading Atas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in 2012.  I decided that I wanted to make a difference in the world by solving the primary problem in computer security, to literally build a machine that could stop the world.

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

The pain point we solve is in removing the predictability in computer security protocols by replacing pseudo-randomness with a consistent and reliable source of true randomness.  Stopping bad guys from doing bad things to good people gets me excited every day.  Cybercrime is prolific; we want to be part of every tech stack that protects innocent people and organizations.

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

Our biggest challenge has been in the development of a machine that is new in the world.  It took five years and seven iterations of the hardware to reach the balance between a (5) 9’s uptime device and a build cost that could compete with existing solutions for true random number generation.  We overcame the challenge using the 3 P’s: Persistence, Patience and Polish.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We were very fortunate to be selected for the #TBIC Accelerator Program (an Embarc Collective partner).  Through the program, we were able to pivot to an approach that has been starting to pay off big!  We are now beginning to work with HashiCorp, Bank OZK, and others in pilot programs that will lead to revenue and happy, paying, referenceable customers!

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

1. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

2. Figure out your buyer persona first then gather information by conducting interviews that are for market research to determine if you are solving a problem that is worth solving

3. Validate all assumptions big and small by using the network of buyer personas you create

4. Actively manage your priorities to keep your life in balance

5. Be grateful every day and learn from your failures because they are the lessons along the way to success


Learn more about Real Random on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook


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