Monthly Archives: November 2022

11.29.2022

Featured Founder: Scott Minniear of NeuX 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 Scott Minniear of NeuX Technologies, which develops life-changing technology that helps people feel, move, and live better.

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

My previous endeavor was as a member of the senior management team charged with successfully selling two medical device companies in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Having suffered from both chronic pain and injuries that never healed properly, I was well aware that the main go-to solutions of pharmaceuticals and surgery focused primarily on treating the symptoms and not the cause of the problem. The right solution will positively affect the lives of millions of people.

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

Pain is the primary pain point we are solving. Whether it’s pain from injuries and accidents when we are young or life taking a toll on our bodies as we age, pain keeps us from living life to its fullest. Our Interactive Neuromuscular Stimulation technology can greatly reduce and even eliminate pain, and it enables people to feel better, move better, and live better.

I get excited to come to work every day knowing how many people are benefiting from our technology. I hear testimonials daily of people no longer in pain and / or being able to do activities they had previously given up on doing. In addition, I am fortunate to be a member of an incredibly talented NeuX team that shares the mission of helping as many people as possible.

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

Medical device technology isn’t as sexy as information technology, so finding investment prior to having a product on the market was challenging. Fortunately, what we lacked in funding we made up for it in perseverance.  With only an analog prototype, we were able to demonstrate the efficacy of our technology to the right people who became as convinced as we were that the product would be successful.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We have established strong beachheads in multiple markets, allowing us to grow with a broad base while assembling a robust management team capable of successfully tackling any obstacle. We are now focused on scaling our business and becoming the dominant leader in each of our markets.

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

As a first-time founder, it is easy to be exuberant about your new venture. You will definitely need this to weather the lows, but don’t let the excitement keep you from focusing on all of the obstacles and truly vetting the opportunity. Don’t quit your day job until you have a realistic understanding of how long it will take to be successful and how much it will cost.

Why Tampa Bay?

The people, the lifestyle, and Embarc Collective. Tampa is a great place to live, the people are friendly, and they go out of their way to help. Embarc Collective provides access to everything a startup or early-stage scaling company needs to be successful.

11.22.2022

Recap: Glaring Gap Summit 2022

This month, Embarc Collective hosted the Glaring Gap Summit, sponsored by ReliaQuest. Now in its third year, the Summit has provided startup investment training to over 150 women across Florida—from college students to mid-level professionals to accredited investors.

The Glaring Gap Summit isn’t your typical speaker conference. Instead, the Summit provides an interactive investor education to its attendees—blending inspirational startup leader speakers with tactical deep dives on due diligence, startup valuations, and venture math considerations for building a startup investment portfolio.

The feedback we received on this year’s Glaring Gap Summit reinforced that providing intentional and intensive education on startup investing can create a meaningful impact: “This event filled my cup. It had all the things: education, motivation, practice tips/solutions, and networking. Even if I did nothing with Angel investing (which I hope to), it would've still been worth it because it gives me better insight into what my company leadership is looking at and how they are operating.”

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Glaring Gap Summit:

Mayor Jane Castor, 59th Mayor of Tampa

Opening Remarks: Mayor Jane Castor

Mayor Castor, the 59th Mayor of Tampa, shared how she has intentionally hired the best people to fill roles in her administration—leading to women in roles such as the city attorney, the police chief, the fire chief, and 50% of all senior staff positions in the city.

Leadership Journey: Regina Marrow, CIO at ReliaQuest

Regina shared insights on her professional trajectory from the past 20 years in IT, scaling her career from Executive Director over IT for the North American operating unit for Gerdau, to CIO at ConnectWise, and now as CIO of ReliaQuest, a global organization that serves as the force multiplier of security operations for hundreds of Fortune 1000 organizations.

Her path to leadership is a reflection of her ability to prioritize: “You should ask yourself, what is the one thing that I’m excited about today? What is something that can trip me up today? What is something I need to get done, but today is not the day?”

Regina Marrow, CIO at ReliaQuest

Seasoned CEOs and Board Directors Deborah Ellinger and Artemis Emslie

Ask, Brand, Connect: Deborah Ellinger, iRobot, Covetrus, Tupperware Brands + Artemis Emslie, Cadence RX

Seasoned CEOs and board leaders Deborah Ellinger and Artemis Emsile shared tactical examples on how to level up your leadership –all the way to the board room. Deborah’s parting wisdom was: “Have courage, conviction, and ask for more.”

Capital Deep Dives: Equity Crowdfunding, Web3, Venture Capital

The Summit then shared a lightning round of capital deep dives to better understand the pathways that exist and how to participate as an investor.

"At the core of our mission, we wanted to provide access to quality deals for investors—no matter your accreditation status." - Caitlin Szikszai, Republic

"What I love about Web3 is that it's focused on giving ownership to everyone—so I think we are going to see a lot of disruption moving forward." - Yasmine Morrison, Florida Funders

"The advent of scalable technology made investing in businesses that could be home runs into a professional industry." - Kristina Barrett, Cultivation Capital

Investor Education Training: Angela Lee, 37 Angels

Angel investor and educator Angela Lee shared practical guidance on developing your investor point of view: “Most of us read a ton of articles and books. If you are serious about getting into venture capital, I would encourage you to start writing. Go read ten articles about crypto, and then write ten bullet points on your thoughts about crypto. This forces you to digest, chew, and develop insights, which is very different than just passively reading. I find that it’s very hard to go from reading ten articles to speaking smartly about a topic. You have to go through that in-between process of writing down your thoughts.”

Want to join our mission to close the #GlaringGap in startup investing? Submit an interest form to participate in our 2023 program.

Read more about the Glaring Gap Summit coverage here:

11.15.2022

Featured Founder: Michael Freed of Maka Social

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 Michael Freed of Maka Social, which helps millions of organizations with an interest in improving social interaction by helping people beat shyness to easily meet people in the real world and develop meaningful connections.

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

I was a stand-up comic running a company to book shows for comedic entertainers while holding down a day job in Fintech. The company was showing signs of becoming successful enough to quit that day job, but an audiobook came along and changed everything. I listened to Bill Nye read his book, Unstoppable, and was inspired to do something more with my life than entertainment. I wanted to be part of the solution to one of humanity’s big problems, the ones that really mattered.

At the time, I thought that was going back to school to become an electrical engineer and go to work for a company like Tesla. Working full time and studying full time lead to a lot of lonely nights. I had a rare night off and was sitting in a bar by myself. I’m an extrovert who had spent way too much time in isolation, so I was starved for human interaction. But I’m also shy, which makes it hard to talk to strangers so I’m sitting here at the bar, surrounded by people, unsuccessfully trying to fill my need for human interaction on Facebook while surrounded by people.

Building an app to help people with social anxiety break the ice with people around them sounded like a worthwhile idea. It wasn’t until I built a business model for the idea and saw the growth potential and learned that about 1 in 4 people are shy extroverts that I realized I was on to something.

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

The pain points vary by segment. For example, our first phase is helping shy wedding guests mingle with less anxiety and stress so that they can enjoy the party as much as the more confident guests. We’re also giving the brides an affordable tool to ensure their guests have a good time and no one feels left out.

I feel like we have a much broader calling though, one that spans all of our potential markets. 30% of Americans are living with chronic loneliness despite living in a world where we are surrounded by people. This is a leading cause of depression and anxiety and is a stress state that does as much physical damage as smoking 10 cigarettes a day.

Social anxiety his affecting over half of American adults, especially young adults, and a lack of constant contact in crowded environments is the leading contributor. By addressing the symptoms of social anxiety and making first contacts more powerful, we can make these opportunities more numerous, less stressful, and increase the chances of a first encounter leading to further planned engagement.

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

We started a company based on helping people converse face-to-face in person just before Covid made it impossible to converse face-to-face and in person. Covid limited our opportunities for customer discovery, early testing, and even networking. We lost the developer who was supposed to be part of the startup team very early on, and it took over a year to replace him because networking was shut down. We survived by mostly going dormant and waiting it out while doing a great deal of secondary research.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We just launched our first commercially viable product, and we are going to be working hard to test and improve our marketing plan with the wedding industry over the next few months. This market is designed to bring in some early revenue. Our next phase is going to be the college campuses and military bases which are both exciting to us.

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

When you consider your startup costs, don’t forget to value your time. Time is not equal to money because a dollar earned tomorrow is nearly the same as tomorrow’s dollars, but there is no substitute for today’s hours. You’ll never get those back.

On a less philosophical note, there is no substitute for getting out and talking to customers. I wish we had the chance to do more of that in the beginning.

Why Tampa Bay?

I failed at adulting when I was about 22 and had to move back in with my mother who was a Tampa resident. That brought me here, but I love that Tampa is big enough that there is always something to do but small enough that it doesn’t feel crowded or hectic. I also love how multicultural this city is. There are food and entertainment options from every corner of the world.

***

11.08.2022

Featured Founder: Anca Burke of OnlineBar

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 Anca Burke of OnlineBar, which is driving traffic to bars/restaurants by pre-selling flash deals and limited specials, and rewarding you for going out.

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

I was leading strategy and growth for a mobility and AI startup, and also spent time running my real estate investment business in Chicago.

I advised several tech startups, one of which was focused on bringing innovative payments to hospitality. When 2020 hit, on-premise bar and restaurant business was pretty much shut down. Nobody was going to invest in highly intensive capital solutions for payments. And when the industry opened, it was clear the consumer shift to digital and delivery wasn’t going away.

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

We help bars and brick and mortar (bodegas, liquors stores, gas stations, corner shops) to stay in business by driving the foot traffic that is so essential to their financial model. We do this by digitizing, marketing, and selling last-minute specials, flash deals, and promotions for the beverage category. We enable these businesses to move idle inventory, limited volume, and expiring products as well as connect new products/brands to consumers through limited promos.

For consumers, we make it easy to discover, explore and save money on last-minute on-site drink specials and promotions happening in their neighborhood. And while doing so, we provide them the platform to support local and small entrepreneurs, get social and walk a block or two to redeem their products.

Our vision is cities with thriving local businesses, good foot traffic, and safe blocks, where people engage socially, instead of isolating themselves at home.

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

Being a two-sided marketplace, we struggled with figuring out if we’re supposed to grow two markets at the same time, and if not, which one should be first. Were we more like Groupon, or more like Drizly for on-premise? While we sat on some conflicting advice from mentors and coaches, we didn’t give up looking for advisors who had deeper expertise in food and beverage marketplaces. And soon thereafter it became clear that scaling the number of businesses on our platform is critical to bringing the interest of consumers.

Where do you see your company headed next?

Our immediate goal is to launch in Tampa Bay through partnerships with beverage brands/suppliers and start onboarding businesses to OnlineBar through these strategic relationships. We will replicate this model in other major metro areas, first in Florida, and across the nation, in states with fewer restrictions on the sales of alcoholic drinks.

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

Test your ideas/product concept with your target customers on an ongoing basis, and in doing so get early sales commitments. If your prospective customers aren’t willing to commit to a future buy understand why before you spend too much money building your product.

Why Tampa Bay?

I discovered Tampa after attending the Synapse Innovation Summit this past February. I found a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem that goes above and beyond and a local culture that is a better fit for our platform launch.

***

11.01.2022

Featured Founder: Alex Kraft of Heave

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 Alex Kraft of Heave, which is a Heavy Construction equipment marketplace.

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

I was Chief Operating Officer for a large heavy equipment dealership here in Tampa. After we sold the company, I was inspired by the opportunity to innovate in a very old-school industry.

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

Heave is a heavy equipment marketplace. For decades, customers would buy/rent heavy equipment through offline channels. Everything is much more difficult than it needs to be. Our marketplace has an ‘open table’ type element where a customer can submit an ‘RFQ’ and they are served immediately with available inventory from the local dealer salespeople along with their contact information.

What gets me excited every day is knowing that we are solving pain points for both sides of our marketplace. I’m also fueled by the culture of a start-up, being able to experiment constantly. Previously, all I heard was “this is the way we’ve done it” and nothing changed for 10+ years. Any new ideas were met with 5 reasons to not try. It was exhausting.

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

The biggest challenge is first overcoming the fear of starting something from scratch. A surprising challenge to me was truly figuring out who our core customers would be.

When you have an idea and start a company, naturally you are very proud and want to share it with everyone. The term “early adopters” is used all the time, but I like the approach of “who is our product a no-brainer for?” This process allowed us to focus on the core group and get traction much more easily.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We’ve focused mostly on tools for the supply side of our marketplace and improving the salesperson’s experience. Over the next 12-24 months, we’ll be focused on layering in the other services that benefit the customers in our marketplace. Anything that a customer wants or needs to do with heavy equipment will be able to be accomplished via the Heave app: transport the machine, finance the machine, buy an extended warranty, buy parts, and schedule service. We’ll be focusing on that full suite of products and services for heavy equipment customers.

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

When you encounter resistance with your product, it’s easy to get down. But your customers are telling you that it’s not good enough yet. There’s always another move, another tweak. In the long run, this process will help you develop something that is a no-brainer and you’ll be better off for it.

Why Tampa Bay?

This one’s easy - We’ve loved the area and have lived here since 2012.

***

11.01.2022

Embarc Collective Accelerates Startup Programs With $100K from the Florida Business Development Corporation

The grant will support Embarc Collective’s mission to train and develop Tampa Bay’s Tech Talent

Embarc Collective, the startup hub helping founders in the Tampa Bay region build bold, scalable, thriving companies, today announced it received a $100,000 grant from the Florida Business Development Corporation (FBDC). This grant, its fourth from FBDC, will equip Embarc Collective’s entrepreneurs with the infrastructure and training necessary to succeed in today’s startup technology ecosystem. 

The region’s momentum as a startup ecosystem is continuing to accelerate. According to the Motley Fool, Florida is the #3 state for new small businesses while LinkedIn’s 2021 survey also reports Tampa as the third fastest-growing metropolitan area for entrepreneurs. Embarc Collective will use the FBDC grant to provide on-the-job training through tactical workshops that span the functional areas of business and 1:1 coaching support led by seasoned startup operators, who hail from organizations like Instagram, Zynga, Microsoft, and more. 

“We’re incredibly grateful for the continued support of FBDC this year. They’ve been critical in helping us deliver hands-on startup support to entrepreneurs from our organization’s start,” said Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective. “With its help, Embarc Collective will become an even stronger partner for fast-growing startups across Tampa Bay.”

FBDC’s mission is to help businesses secure the long-term, fixed-financing and support they need to grow. With the FBDC’s support, Embarc Collective plans to accomplish the following over the next 12 month:

  • Lead 50 tactical, problem-solving workshops to help member startups and partner organizations level up their skills
  • Bring 35 national startup leaders to Tampa Bay to share their expertise with the startups it supports 
  • Organize bespoke programming to support underrepresented idea-stage startup founders

“Embarc Collective’s programs educate and train entrepreneurs to meet the needs of current and next-generation businesses,” said Bill Habermeyer, CEO of Florida Business Development Corporation. “Throughout its tenure, Embarc Collective has given startups the tools they need to be successful. We’re excited to continue this grant so they can continue to put Tampa Bay on the map for its innovative and highly-skilled workforce.”  

The FBDC grant is the latest in a series of milestones from Embarc Collective. Earlier this year, it hosted the 9th Annual Startup of the Year Summit, a national startup competition that attracts hundreds of startups and venture investors to Tampa. The organization also partnered with ReliaQuest, a global cybersecurity firm, to host its 3rd Annual Glaring Gap Summit and create a newly branded events space, ReliaQuest Auditorium @ Embarc Collective. Embarc Collective now has 125+ members, and startups affiliated with Embarc have raised $174 million in venture capital funding.

About Embarc Collective

Embarc Collective is a nonprofit startup hub helping founders in the Tampa Bay region build bold, scalable, thriving companies. Embarc Collective offers hands-on support driven by the unique goals and needs of each member startup. Member companies receive customized, ongoing coaching and support from startup veterans to help propel member companies’ growth.

Embarc Collective works with a growing roster of over 125 early-stage startups at its 32,000 square-foot office in downtown Tampa. Its partners include over 100 expertise-focused organizations and 160 early-stage venture firms across the country dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs. In 2021, Embarc Collective delivered 1,300 hours of one-on-one coaching to its members as well as 65 group learning sessions. For more information, please visit www.embarccollective.com

About The Florida Business Development Corporation

FBDC is a private, non-profit Certified Development Company (CDC) established in 1989 to administer the Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 Loan Program. FBDC assists healthy, growing companies secure long-term, below-market, fixed-rate financing for the acquisition and development of fixed assets. The SBA 504 Loan Program can also be utilized to refinance debt associated with fixed assets. Last year, FBDC was the most active CDC in the nation and has assisted in over $12 Billion of projects since being formed. In addition to this program, FBDC makes annual economic development contributions to the communities in which it serves. For more information, please visit www.fbdc.net.