Monthly Archives: June 2021


Introducing the Freelancer Program

Our vision is for Tampa Bay to be seen as a great place to build a business—at all stages of the startup journey. To accomplish this vision, we need a pool of diverse talent that can help move our startups forward with their expertise and efficiency. We believe that freelance talent — often outsourced by early-stage startups across marketing, creative, taxes, and accounting — as a critical part of this vision.

Introducing the Freelancer Program at Embarc Collective

Our Freelancer Program is a 4-week intimate workshop-style course led by the coaches of Embarc Collective. The program will train our strong and capable local freelancer network in communicating and serving the unique needs and challenges of the startup community to help them scale their freelance businesses.

Through this training, participants will become a part of our new Freelance Talent Directory to better serve our community of nearly 100 member companies and our national network of investors and partners who are hungry to leverage vetted freelance talent.

The program will take place from August 30, 2021 through September 23, 2021 and will be held at Embarc Collective, located at 802 E Whiting St. in Downtown Tampa.

We encourage Tampa Bay area freelancers who are interested in growing their business to work with tech and tech-enabled startups to learn more and apply here!



Featured Founder: Greg Rancourt of One Work Co.

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 Greg Rancourt, Founder of One Work Co., which is a different kind of job search platform, one where culture, character, and purpose form the foundation of great teams doing great things in service of a shared mission.

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

I have been an aerospace engineer for most of my career, working on UAV propulsion, satellite ground control systems, flight management systems, and joint sensor networking. I like to say that aerospace engineering is the action movie of engineering: the products are loud, fast, or explosive! I loved working in that industry because you get to build systems that have a positive impact on people’s lives. They will fly on an aircraft or use a GPS signal that I helped deliver.

On face value, it doesn’t seem like building a job search platform would be a natural extension of those experiences, but engineering embodies a spirit of continuous improvement that we share at One Work.

That spirit inspired a thought experiment: How would you realize humanity's potential?

We came to the conclusion that if we could align people around shared purpose and equip them with the resources required to effect positive change, we could create powerful downstream effects for individuals, families, and communities. The hiring process is a pivotal moment when people decide what to do with their lives, so that’s where we opted to innovate first.

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

I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible people who show up because they believe in the mission and the people they work with. When those critical elements align, teams become unstoppable. They transcend the limits of their abilities.

We can all remember working on a team that seemed to have something special. Our team members were a blast to work with, and the work was fulfilling. We stayed late because we wanted to, not because we had to. We came home energized and eager for what tomorrow would bring.

What makes those teams special has everything to do with fit: all of the pieces are perfectly placed. But it’s downright impossible to assess fit early on in the hiring process.

Today’s tools rely on keywords to screen for the perfect job opening or candidate, leaving the complex, intangible, and personal assessment of fit to the interview process. Job search platforms simply don’t take into account the information required to create high-performance, highly engaged teams, nor are they incentivized to do so – they make more money when hires go wrong and employers are forced to return for another dip in the talent pool.

Have I mentioned how big and how noisy that pool is? Searching for the right fit is time-consuming when there’s so much data to digest, and employers and job seekers alike are competing with hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions, of other people using the same keywords.

Ultimately, we’re addressing these issues by creating a high-quality, low-volume talent pool with culture, character, and purpose as keystones. We’ve designed our systems based on research in psychology, choice architecture, and employee engagement – it’s a radically different approach to the hiring process, and we can’t wait for you to see it.

I am excited to be a part of One Work because I get to help people with an issue that is central to their lives. When I talk with users about what we’re building and their eyes light up – it makes you want to do everything in your power to enable their success. Service is an endless wellspring of motivation.

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

Confidence was a significant challenge for me. I had a case of impostor syndrome, and I still do sometimes – if you’re grounded and introspective, you realize just how little you know in the grand scheme of things.

Running a company requires a multidisciplinary mindset, but I had only ever worked in engineering. I had an idea but none of the skills to put it into practice, whether it was finance, marketing, design, web development, or even hiring! Nor did I have any connections with people who had walked this road before and could point me in the right direction.

So I started learning. I watched tutorials on YouTube to learn new tools. I read blogs. I took a year of web development courses through Codecademy. I studied small business concepts with Google Primer. I built and reworked prototypes, iterating from big picture to implementation details and back again. Crucially, I found ways to implement new skills at my job so I could solicit feedback on how I was doing.

Once I’d made enough progress, starting a company became an opportunity, not a risk. I was passionate about the mission, and I felt I could learn just about anything if I put my mind to it. It started with a growth mindset.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We are heads down on product development with the goal of launching our initial job seeker features in a few months. Those features are designed to provide value to job seekers even before employers have the ability to post jobs, helping us overcome the challenges of bringing two sides of a marketplace together. Once the job seeker community is established, we will launch the employer side of the marketplace.

We want to place people in their forever jobs, which means supporting them in ways that go beyond hiring. Future features will support our users from the time they identify a career path to the time they retire, with a focus on helping them refine their career goals and connecting them to the resources required to reach them.

Our vision is to create a global community of mission-driven individuals capable of addressing humanity’s most significant challenges and realizing its most ambitious dreams. One Work is about leaving the world better than we found it, and a new way to hire is just the beginning. We are excited for the road ahead!

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

Small companies are expected to move quickly. Enter the MVP: minimum viable product.

If an MVP represents what needs to be done, then I’d encourage you to consider why it needs to be done and how it is developed.

We have two primary levers to improve schedule: reduce scope or increase velocity. MVP falls squarely in the first camp, reducing scope to the minimum set of features required to go to market. To truly scrutinize the MVP, you need to understand why those features are required, and they should be derived from your OKRs: objectives and key results. If a feature doesn’t support an OKR, send it to the farm upstate!

To increase velocity, you need to understand how your product is developed. That means understanding the steps in your development process, which are repeatable, and the steps in your development roadmap, which are not. The former can be improved with Theory of Constraints and the latter with Critical Chain.

Theory of Constraints asserts that your repeatable development process has a single constraint that limits your ability to deliver features faster. Maybe user research is the constraint because of the waiting time between interviews, which means you can only deliver features as quickly as you can interview users to define them. You will develop features more quickly if you eliminate the constraint, at which point the constraint moves and the process of identifying and eliminating the constraint repeats. Hooray, continuous improvement!

Critical Chain states that your roadmap has a critical path that represents the longest series of dependent tasks, and you can only go to market as quickly as you can complete the tasks on the critical path. If I’m developing an email application, for example, I can’t organize emails if I haven’t developed the feature to receive emails yet. Know your feature dependencies and focus on the critical path. Tasks that aren’t on the critical path can be worked in parallel by multiple team members.

If you prioritize the critical path and continue investing in your development process, you will increase velocity with your current team. If that’s not fast enough, consider hiring – we’d be happy to help!

Why Tampa Bay?

Full disclosure: I’m a mountain man, and my soul is tucked along the forested coast of the Pacific Northwest. That said, Tampa Bay is a great place to be. It has the energy of a region poised to capture the conversation in the coming years, if it hasn’t already. I’m reminded of technology hubs like Denver, Austin, and Seattle before they took off. It’s exciting to be here at the tipping point.

Tampa Bay is seeing significant population growth, which is particularly valuable for One Work. That means more people looking to find a career in the region and more employers looking for the right fit.

What strikes me most though is the cooperative atmosphere throughout the region, not just at Embarc Collective and its member companies. It starts with the leadership in Tampa and St. Petersburg and seems to permeate every organization I’ve encountered. The phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” comes to mind. People here want to see you succeed and will go out of their way to help you.


Open Call: 2021 Community Survey


This annual benchmarking survey helps our community evaluate the state of entrepreneurship in Florida. With your input, we can ensure that the support for stakeholders in the entrepreneurial community matches your needs.

The survey is quick, easy, and completely anonymous.

Participate Here

We are specially seeking input from the following:

  • Founders of startups
  • Startup team members
  • Investors in startups
  • Individuals interested in founding a startup
  • Individuals interested in joining a startup team
  • Team members at accelerators, incubators, or other entrepreneurial support organizations
  • Employees at corporations that work with startups
  • Employees at educational institutions that work with startups
  • Government employees that work with startups

Featured Founder: Trevor Clark of Shyftoff

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 Trevor Clark,  Co-Founder of ShyftOff, which provides flexible customer support outsourcing for businesses.

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

Prior to starting ShyftOff, I was leading contact center operations for a large telecommunications company. My team and I were responsible for accurately predicting customer contact demand and efficiently staffing agents to handle those contacts.  In my years of experience in contact centers, I learned a few things about the industry...

  •  Being an agent in a contact center is a lot harder than most people realize - low pay, inflexible schedules, and extreme micromanagement are just a few reasons this line of work is difficult and unappealing.
  • Contact centers are extremely inefficient - In traditional contact center staffing models, you either have customers waiting on hold, or the center is overstaffed which means your business is losing money.

 We started ShyftOff for a few reasons…

  • We created a solution for the inefficiencies in traditional contact centers - we have demonstrated extreme flexibility and responsiveness to changing demand while maintaining high quality for our clients.
  • “US Agents, Offshore Cost” - we can offer significant cost advantages with ShyftOff’s model, which gives small and mid-sized businesses a way to staff US Agents for a comparable cost to Offshore (Philippines).
  • We can still offer significantly better pay and working environments for agents - we pay almost twice as much as traditional contact centers, and we have never issued schedules to our agents, and we still deliver flexibility and cost savings to our clients.

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

It's easy to take for granted the comforts (work-life balance, sufficient pay, and flexibility) that corporate management jobs provide, but it's sobering to truly comprehend the struggle that a contact center agent endures every day. In addition to earning low wages, an agent’s livelihood can be jeopardized after getting stuck in traffic, taking the day off to care for a sick child or any life event.

 "If you make >$100,000/yr, there's a 60% chance you can work from home. If you make <$40,000/yr, there's a 10% chance you can work from home." - Scott Galloway

 Contact centers are constantly looking for ways to better respond and plan for increases and decreases in customer demand. Yet the agent’s wellbeing is often last on the list of priorities.

 The exciting thing for me is that we've identified a path to make life as an agent significantly better while solving major operational challenges for businesses. This is a win-win, and I'm excited to help shape the future of this industry.

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

Personally, making the decision to leave a comfortable corporate position to fully pursue entrepreneurship was scary. I officially made the jump in March 2021 but after a few years of preparation.

 I saved up to make the transition, expecting not to take an income from my company. Being financially stable was super important to me - I wanted to put my energy into making ShyftOff successful, and I didn’t want to worry about making ends meet or bring desperation into my startup.

 I mentally prepared - this wasn’t an overnight decision, and it comes with a fair amount of risk. It was important to me to think through this new path and bounce ideas off of my mentors.

 I already had a business - the decision to pursue ShyftOff was based on evidence that our hypothesis was working and it was time to accelerate growth.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We're expecting ShyftOff to grow considerably in 2021. Our focus is on adding new pilot programs with companies that share our vision for this next-generation contact center model.

We've had a lot of successful testing and proving our hypotheses with existing pilot clients, and as a result, we've begun broader commercialization efforts. Most recently, we've added a business development leader to our executive team, who we believe will be instrumental in accelerating our growth.