Tampa-St. Pete’s culture of innovation garners praise • St Pete Catalyst

The Tampa-St. Pete area has many reasons to brag about its culture of innovation.

Workforce, access to experts, an open risk-taking culture and a fun vibe were among the factors cited by a panel of people involved in the startup community who spoke about what is needed. to further connect the two major cities on either side of Tampa Bay.

Steve Gianfilippo, owner and creator of Station House, launched Reveal: Undived.

The panel, “Bridging the Bay,” was hosted by Synapse, a non-profit organization created to help Florida’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems thrive. It was part of Reveal: Undived, an April 5 celebration hosted by Station House, which itself links Tampa Bay, with a location soon to open in Hyde Park Village in Tampa in addition to its sites in St. Petersburg.

Moderator Shannon Pistazzo asked the panel what it would take for people outside of this region to think of St. Pete and Tampa as one region.

Most people care about stories, not geography, said Joe Hamilton, St. Pete Catalyst editor and one of the panelists.

“Everyone’s trying to make their way to this place of respect, or to be seen as the next Silicon Valley or the next Austin, but it comes down to victories. I don’t think anybody is going to overtake the market to get this without them, ”Hamilton said. “When we have the story that comes out of here, we will all benefit from it. Once we have these stories to ourselves, we’ll believe them and stop rolling our eyes. “

Pistazzo asked each of the panelists what in the region’s culture of innovation they would brag about to someone who is not from here.

Shannon Pistazzo, Director of Business Development at Synapse, moderated the panel.

Erik Maltais, CEO of Immertec, a Tampa-based company with a real-time 3D virtual reality training platform, cited a dedicated and talented workforce. “I work for 20 extremely talented people who are passionate about what we do, and I wonder ‘how did I get the opportunity to become the person who deserves to be their leader,” said Maltais.

There is a spirit of collaboration in the field that is not everywhere, said Thomas Pittz, who studies entrepreneurship as an assistant professor of management at the University of Tampa.

“In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve had more access and more conversations and more productive work with people at higher levels in industry, government and academia than I do. I’ve had in 20 years in leadership roles in large organizations elsewhere, “Pittz said.” If you want to start a business here, you’ll find that you’ll have access to people quickly and often. “

St. Pete’s public-private partnerships and “Grow Smarter” economic development strategy stand out for Alison Barlow, Executive Director of the St. Pete Innovation District. The same goes for the fun vibe of the area, which she described as “flip-flops and laptops,” as well as Midwestern values.

While many cities boast of having living, working and playing environments, this area is unique due to what Hamilton called “vulnerability” or people willing to try many different things.

“We have a particularly vulnerable culture here that is tied to these Midwestern values,” said Hamilton, who is also co-founder of the St. Petersburg group, partner of Seedfunders and director of the Catalyst Fund. “The number of things that I have started in the last year and that I hold on to – I just don’t think there are a lot of communities where you can do that. I think we lack high level intellectual support, but we certainly don’t lack emotional support, ‘let’s raise this thing’.

The panel spoke about the importance of Rise of the Rest, an initiative by Steve Case, CEO of Revolution and co-founder of AOL, to shine a light on innovation outside of the country’s major tech hubs. The Rise of the Rest bus tour and pitch competition will take place in the area on May 1, starting today at Station House in St. Pete.

Immertec is one of eight companies that will be participating in Rise of the Rest, and Maltais is excited to be able to connect with Rise of the Rest fund partners, including Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Eric Schmidt, President of the parent company of Google Alphabet. “That means these people are invested in Tampa, some of the biggest investors in the country are going to be invested in Tampa Bay,” he said.

Pittz said it would increase the region’s visibility nationwide, putting a megaphone over the message that there is innovation in Tampa-St. Rock.

“We know how cool this place is… now we’re going to get some national recognition,” Barlow said.

Hamilton took a contrarian point of view.

“My last corporate gig was for a Steve Case company [Revolution Money] and it was really fun. It was a great operation to participate in, ”said Hamilton. “But I think I’m going to take the petulant teens’ point of view here and say we’re bad without them already.” It’s a nice, fun party, but we’re already great.

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