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I Moved to Tampa Bay to Build the Startup Community, Here’s Why

I am fortunate to have called two of the largest startup ecosystems my home, San Francisco and New York City. Spending the last 3+ years building and supporting the entrepreneurial community in these cities, I have been exposed to and worked with some of the most successful entrepreneurs and investors, innovative thinkers, and engaging events that encourage disruption.

Yet if we met over the past two years, I have probably shared my career goal with you — building the startup community in Tampa Bay, FL.

Historically founders needed to relocate to major tech hubs to launch companies, sacrificing an exorbitant cost of living for access to high-caliber networks, contagious entrepreneurial energy, and the promise of venture capital funding. If you wanted your startup to succeed, you needed to be in the thick of it.

But the narrative is changing. It’s clear that this is the beginning of a new era for entrepreneurship across the U.S. — high-growth companies can now start and scale anywhere, not just in a few coastal cities, and organizations like Rise of the Rest, LaunchTN, and Engage Ventures are backing up this thinking.

Folks are actually seeking these options for reasons like tax breaks, lower employee wages, intellectual diversity, and an increase in the overall quality of life (such as in Salt Lake City and the Midwest). It’s no surprise that the San Francisco Bay area reported a net loss of people for these reasons between 2016 and 2017.

This shift in thinking is taking over Tampa Bay, too. Over the past several years I’ve watched the community rally around the city’s bubbling growth — from the $3B investment to develop Water Street Tampa by Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investments, to the launch of Dreamit’s Urban & Secure Tech Accelerator, the 3,000+person Synapse Innovation Summit, the Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity Accelerator powered by the Nielsen Foundation, and the growth of Tampa Bay Startup Week powered by TechStars (where GaryVee keynoted this year).

Why would I care so much about Tampa Bay?

It’s home. Born and raised in the Tampa Bay area, building the local startup community means an opportunity to create impact on a much deeper, more personal level.

With the momentum taking place, we are at a pivotal moment in time for Tampa Bay to step up to the plate and become a leader in the Southeast region for entrepreneurial growth. I am all-in on helping the local changemakers unlock the city’s potential for retaining, harvesting, and attracting entrepreneurial talent through supporting startups with what they need most — a community to belong to, workshops and education, customer introductions, and access to investment opportunities.

I am thrilled for the opportunity to work alongside Lakshmi Shenoy, the newly appointed CEO of Embarc Collective, and former VP of Partnerships at Chicago’s 1871. On this team, I will lead the charge on building our programming and partnership strategy to support the growth of local tech companies and encourage new startups to plant roots in Tampa.

If you are a startup interested in emerging startup ecosystems, have ties to Tampa, or suggestions on organizations to partner with, drop me a line, I’d love to chat.

PS — this serves as your personal invitation to come visit us in Tampa Bay! We have sunshine, award-winning beaches, three professional sports teams, 50+ craft breweries, + a growing community of entrepreneurs ready to change the world.

VP Platform at Embarc Collective
Allie Felix