Monthly Archives: February 2021


Lessons from the Cameo Growth Story


We were lucky to welcome Cameo CEO Steven Galanis to Embarc Collective this week. The Cameo growth story is incredible - they started just 4 years ago and today have grown to 200 employees, $100M in customer transactions and $25M in revenue in 2020. The team has raised over $65M in funding by investors including Kleiner Perkins and Lightspeed and was last valued at over $300M.

Steven started the Cameo journey at 1871, the startup hub in Chicago and partner of Embarc Collective, so he was well equipped to advise Embarc Collective members on how to best leverage a community like ours to grow their company.

We are sharing our 5 favorite insights from the conversation with Steven:

Fight for Simplicity:

Narrow your focus and execute on one key thing exceptionally well – allowing you to do that one thing at a world class level.

Turn Your Team Into Evangelists:

As a 2-sided marketplace, Cameo first made a point to focus on bringing celebrity talent onto their platform and keeping them satisfied (rather than trying to focus on both celebrity talent and customers at the same time). A great roster of celebrity talent will help attract the customers. Cameo took this customer-centric approach when engaging with the talent on their platform by rolling out the red carpet at every moment possible. The result? Celebrity talent became Cameo evangelists and promoted the platform with their fans, growing Cameo's reach.

Be Accountable From the Start:

Steven recommended that all startups write monthly updates, even if you don't have outside investors. This will ensure that you are tracking your forward movement and growth each month.

Narrow Your CEO Role:

When you are starting out, the CEO can feel like the Chief Everything Officer, but as you scale your team, try to narrow your focus to these areas:

    1. Finding and achieving product market fit
    2. Building a unified mission, vision and culture
    3. Hiring great people (ones who are smarter than you)
    4. Keeping the lights on (generating revenue and raising capital)

The Case for Florida:

Cameo has recently become a completely remote organization, and Steven has migrated from Chicago to Miami. The livability, lifestyle and the growing energy around the tech startup community statewide were two reasons he made the move.



About our Programming Supporter: This CEO Fireside Chat was made possible through support from the Florida Business Development Corporation. Since 1989, the Florida Business Development Corporation (FBDC) has been dedicated to the success of Florida small businesses. As the most active lender in the east coast of the U.S., we excel at assisting healthy, growing companies secure long-term, below-market, fixed-rate financing for the acquisition and development of fixed assets. The program can also be utilized to refinance debt associated with fixed assets.


Meet the Inaugural Embarc Collective Young Professionals Board

As part of our work at Embarc Collective, we get to connect with talented professionals across industries from startups to large corporates. In meeting with so many talented individuals, we saw an opportunity to create a bridge between the established business world and the emerging startup world. And with that, we launched the Embarc Collective Young Professionals Board in December 2020.

This is an opportunity for high potential professionals across Tampa Bay from diverse backgrounds and industries to engage more deeply with the future of Tampa Bay and the growing startup community, with a specific focus on creating a vibrant network of opportunities for top talent for Embarc Collective member companies and leaders in the business community.

Over the course of their term, these individuals will help connect dots for Embarc Collective member companies and utilize their unique position as leaders to enhance connectivity into the business community of Embarc Collective to Tampa Bay

"We saw an opportunity to bring in leaders across the region earlier in their careers to create stronger connectivity between the startups we serve and the local corporate world," said Karyn Rood, Embarc Collective Events Manager and Young Professionals Board lead. "The group that we have convened will continue to energize the growing Embarc Collective community."

Meet the 2021 Embarc Collective Young Professional Board:

  • Joe Bachman, Fifth Third Bank
  • Saxon Baum, Florida Funders
  • Cory Bernstine, United Soccer League
  • Stephanie Boussias, Hunter Business Law
  • Alyinth Bowen, Bisk
  • Blake Brunner, Kobie Marketing
  • Antonio Cotton, Bisk
  • Jennifer Crabtree, Tampa General Hospital
  • Beau Giles, South Tampa Chamber
  • Ishani Hewage, Kobie Marketing
  • Conner Hourigan, Beach Community Bank
  • Ishrain Hussain, Jabil Inc.
  • Andrew Jones, Drift
  • Katherine Labarta, Haneke Design
  • Michael Marraccini, Ultimate Medical Academy
  • Nicholas Outman, Hill Ward Henderson
  • Evaristo Palmer, Cherry Bekaert LLP
  • Hayley Phillips, Diamond View
  • Will Shanahan, Diamond View
  • Andrew Simpson, Bayshore Solutions
  • Danielle Sly, Kobie Marketing
  • Chantae Still, University of South Florida
  • Dan Thompson, Vaco
  • Jesus Vidaurri, Tech Data
  • James Zebrowski, Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization, Inc.

“I’m excited to join the inaugural young professionals board with Embarc Collective! Being on the board will allow me to learn from some of the most entrepreneurial and creative thinkers in Tampa Bay," said Alyinth Bowen of Bisk. "I am looking forward to weaving my background and knowledge into a larger tapestry that promotes innovation, creativity and learning.”

"I am thrilled to join the Young Professionals Board for several reasons. It provides an opportunity to share my passion for technology and for this community in so many ways," Jesus Viaurri of TechData shared. "Being in the area for almost a decade, I have seen a tremendous shift in the tech scene and more so within the startup community and I couldn't be more excited to be anywhere else in the country. We, meaning Tampa, are truly reshaping the startup and tech scene, and I can only imagine where we will be in the next 5 years."

To learn more about the Young Professionals Board, reach out to


Startup Guide: Tampa Bay

Reposted from Build In SE

Whether you’re already in Tampa Bay or thinking about relocating to this fantastic region, use this guide as a first glance into the exciting and growing startup ecosystem in Tampa Bay.If you’re looking for more resources outside of Tampa Bay and in the Southeast, make sure to head to In SE is an organization with a mission to increase the number of startup success stories in the Southeast by leveraging a cross-regional collaborative network.

Florida’s Bay Area

Tampa Bay (Tampa-St. Petersburg) is a rapidly growing waterfront region on the west coast of central Florida, which provides easy access to the state’s countless assets (yes, that includes a short drive to Disney World…). It’s home to 2.8 million residents, 5 colleges and universities, world-class beaches, stunning subtropical nature, and rich immigrant history. With so much to love, it’s easy to understand why nearly 40,000 newcomers make Tampa Bay their home each year.Additionally, Tampa and St. Pete each offer a distinct yet complementary identity that makes the Tampa Bay area an attractive place for startup builders and supporters to thrive professionally and personally. The region has been named a top emerging tech ecosystem and a great place to work in tech.

Tampa Bay Capital Landscape

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

Tampa Bay Fundraising Deals

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

Note: While funding isn’t the perfect metric to measure a startup’s success, it is a vital part of many company’s growth journey; investable companies and available capital are key components of a region’s startup ecosystem.*Deals include Tampa Bay-based companies and/or firms.

Tampa Bay Startup Funders

Tampa Bay Startups to Watch

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

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

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

Tampa Bay Incubators, Accelerators, and Startup Hubs

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

Tampa Bay Coworking Spaces

Tampa Bay Conferences

Tampa Bay Community & Event Organizers

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

Tampa Bay Tech Media and Podcasts

Tampa Bay Startup Jobs

Tampa Bay City Initiatives

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

About Your Guide

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

I grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Tampa Bay in 2014. Tampa Bay was — and continues to be — different in many ways than what I was familiar with, but the collective hunger for growth, the beautiful and unique nature, and the opportunities to contribute to a formative identity quickly won me over. While there’s still plenty of work to do (that’s the best part!), Tampa Bay is quickly shaping up to be one of the most exciting cities to live and build in.If you’re interested in learning more about Tampa Bay or would like to connect, give me a holler!LinkedIn | Twitter | Email

Featured Founder: Chris Krimitsos of Podfest Expo

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 Krimitsos, Chief Creative Officer of Podfest Expo, which facilitates new media communities via live and virtual events.

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

I had been an executive producer of a TV show called the BleepinTruth and had a fun time producing some pretty entertaining shows. Then after getting thrown off the air, I formed eMarketing Groups and the Tampa Bay Business Owners.  I sold TBBO and started building a conference called Podfest helping creators connect and the rest is history.

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

Podcasters and YouTubers (creators) live primarily online and really have very few touchpoints where they meet face-to-face. We have created a facilitated environment that fosters collaboration and the free flow of information, in-person as well as online.

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

One is brand awareness with full-time influencers. I sponsor as many regional and local events as humanly possible as well as help influencers connect via e-introductions every day of the week.  I also host the monthly Florida Podcasters Association, the longest-running meetup of its kind in the country. We averaged 40-50 attendees prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are averaging 20 attendees during COVID-19.

Where do you see your company headed next?

Last year we had 2000 registered attendees for our in-person event in Orlando, and this year we believe we can reach 4000 attendees. We also set a Guiness World Record for largest virtual event, and on March 1st through 5th, we are looking forward to shattering that record this year! We are creating an umbrella brand called The Creator Village to house all our concepts that cater to online creators.

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

The lack of resources is not your greatest weakness. It's in that lack that you find out how resourceful you can be to get to where you need to go.