Monday Morning Memo

Monday, April 29, 2019

Member Spotlight: Tampa Bay Wave

Tampa Bay Wave, Inc. (Wave), a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build, launch, and grow breakout tech businesses in Tampa Bay, will represent 4 out of 8 total finalist companies pitching for $100K at Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Pitch Competition. Guestbox, Immertec, Pocket Network and WorldWatch Plus comprise half of the finalists selected to pitch on Wednesday, May 1 at ConnectWise. Steve Case and his team are convinced that the future of American startups lies outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, and Boston, which receive 75% of all venture capital in the US.

Tampa Bay Wave provides local entrepreneurs with facilitated access to the resources, expertise, and capital they need to grow vibrant technology-based companies in Tampa Bay and create high wage tech jobs, thus fostering an innovation-based economy for the region. Since March 2013, Tampa Bay Wave has supported more than 200 tech startups in Tampa Bay thanks to grant funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), plus support from its economic development partners Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa. Tampa Bay Wave also receives support from corporate partners such as Bank of America, Florida Blue, Foley & Lardner, Sourcetoad, Sykes Enterprises, Tampa Bay Rays, TECO, Trenam Law, Valley National Bank (previously USAmeriBank), Florida Business Development Corporation and The Nielsen Foundation. For more information, visit  

On May 1st, the Rise of the Rest Pitch Competition coming to Tampa. Out of eight total finalists, Tampa Bay Wave represents four finalist companies pitching for $100K on May 1.

Rise of the Rest Tampa Event Details

Member Exclusive Mixer at Sheraton Riverwalk

Join fellow Partnership members and guests for a casual networking opportunity while enjoying complimentary hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and a beautiful view of the Hillsborough River on the Sheraton’s newly renovated pool deck.

Members are free and may bring one guest for $5. Register today!

The Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel invested millions in renovating its hotel and pool deck amenities, and revealed its new Sheraton Pool Bar on Sunday, August 26 with a grand opening.

Hotel guests and locals exploring the Riverwalk will enjoy live music, food and drinks such as wine, liquor and domestic beer with half-priced food and free bloody marys and mimosas for the first hour.

The poolside menu features sandwiches, salads and small plates such as the lobster mac-n-cheese, the calamari or the crabcake appetizer from award-winning executive chef Charles Coe. Coe also will introduce specialty drinks.

“Opening Sheraton Pool Bar has given us an opportunity to be creative with new drinks for guests and locals alike,” he said in a prepared statement.

“This includes making differently flavored ice cubes, with ingredients like mint, that we grow in-house, which adds a special touch to the menu.”

And the best part—open container privilege.

Guests can order a drink from the pool bar and take it anywhere while exploring the Riverwalk or the hotel. Read more about the renovations in this Tampa Bay Times article.

Tampa Downtown Partnership’s 33rd Annual Meeting

Once a year the Tampa Downtown Partnership has the opportunity to share with members and the community a celebration of the organization’s accomplishments and induct new leadership at the Annual Meeting and Luncheon. This year, the Partnership welcomes the President and CEO of the Times Square Alliance, Tim Tompkins, as the keynote speaker.

This event includes a plated lunch and Keynote presentation. Check-In begins at 11am, program will begin promptly at Noon.

Register today!

More About the Keynote Speaker

Tim Tompkins has been the President of the Times Square Alliance since 2002. The Alliance is a business improvement district that works to improve and promote Times Square – cultivating the creativity, energy and edge that have made the area an icon of entertainment, culture and urban life for over a century.

He is a board member of the NYC BID Association and the current Chair of the International Downtown Association. Prior to joining the Alliance, he was the Founder and Director of Partnerships for Parks, which works to support New York City’s neighborhood parks and which won an Innovations in Government Award from the JFK School of Government at Harvard for its work to restore the Bronx River. He has also worked at New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, The New York City Charter Revision Commission, and was briefly the Nationals Editor at the Mexico City News, an English language newspaper in Mexico. He has an undergraduate degree from Yale and an M.B.A. from Wharton, and currently teaches “Transforming Cities” and “The Arts and Artist in Urban Revitalization” at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. When not in the most urban and unnatural place on the planet, he enjoys being in New York’s natural areas, ideally sailing or practicing yoga.

Summer Internship with the Partnership

The Tampa Downtown Partnership is looking to hire a Marketing and Communications Intern for this summer. The internship will run June through August with a required 12-hour work week. Applicants entering their third or final year of college are preferred.

The Marketing and Communications Intern works directly with the Director of Marketing and Communications to oversee the organization’s marketing, communications, public relations, brand and social media programs. The position is responsible for assisting in the planning and implementation of all marketing, communications, and branding for the Downtown Tampa Special Services District (SSD) and Tampa Downtown Partnership. The position coordinates with other Partnership team members to advance the organization and the SSD.

View the full job description.

Interested? Email your cover letter with resume to Kelsy Van Camp at No phone calls, please.

Partnership Staff Update

Please join us in congratulating Tampa Downtown Partnership Director of Marketing and Communication, Kelsy Long (aka VanCamp) who married Kole Long over the weekend.  Kelsy’s new email address is  Congratulations to them both for a lifetime of happiness.

Kelsy Long serves as the Tampa Downtown Partnership’s Director of Marketing and Communications. Kelsy is responsible for overseeing the organization’s marketing, communications, public relations, brand and social media programs. In this role, she develops and implements strategic marketing and communication plans and manages the budget for the Special Service District, including initiating and administering applicable contracts. Read her full bio.

Jane Castor Makes History, Becomes Tampa’s Mayor-Elect

Jane Castor is Tampa’s next mayor, making history as the first openly gay mayor to gain office in Tampa Bay.

The retired police chief crushed opponent David Straz with 73 percent of the vote, stretching a near-win in the primary seven weeks ago into a full-on rout Tuesday night.

It was over before the first ballot cast on Election Day got counted. Castor, 59, ran up an overwhelming lead in early voting, ending any hope for Straz despite his record spending on the race.

Campaign finance reports show the retired banker spent nearly $5-million during the campaign, much of it from his personal fortune. That means Straz spent nearly $345 for every vote he received. Castor, who won all but 7 of the city’s 103 precincts, spent about $44 per vote.

Castor greeted cheering supporters at a downtown watch party Tuesday night with arms raised.

“The next mayor of Tampa!” she said to a roar at The Vault.

Her speech was mostly thank you’s to her supporters, including outgoing Mayor Bob Buckhorn and political consultant Ana Cruz, Castor’s partner, whom she dubbed “invincible.”

Castor said it was important to note her campaign stayed positive.

“No matter what we went through, no matter what obstacle was put in our way, we never lost our focus on the issues that mattered,” she said.

Those issues, she said, were strengthening neighborhoods, including boosting transit options and beefing up affordable housing stock in a rapidly gentrifying city.

She closed by noting that her election sent a “resounding message,” and asked Tampa to rally behind her as she readies the city for historic change.

“I’ll take us there,” she said.

Shortly after, Straz agreed it was time for the city to rally behind its next mayor.

“If you want the best for Tampa, you want Jane Castor to succeed as mayor,” he said.

The seven-week runoff campaign was largely conducted through television ads, mailers and social media rather than face-to-face debates. Straz, 76, declined most debates and forums, saying voters were tired of them.

Instead, he spent millions to flood residents with a series of negative ads attacking Castor’s 31-year career with the Tampa Police Department, capped by her tenure as chief between 2009-2015.

He also portrayed City Hall as a nest of corruption ruled by insiders on the take. He provided almost no evidence of either charge.

Read the full article.

“Jane Castor wins big in Tampa mayor’s race”Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)

Here is When Embarc Will Open

While Embarc Collective is still far off from completion, the self-dubbed innovation hub has already begun working with dozens of technology startups in the Tampa Bay area.

The 32,000-square-foot facility being built in downtown Tampa had an original opening date of March, but it will now open at the end of the year, according to Embarc sources. However, they moved forward with allowing technology companies to apply last November.

Now, Embarc has chosen 25 companies to begin working with remotely while the space continues construction. The 25 companies bring 81 startup team members to the Embarc Collective portfolio.

“We’ve been sprinting all the way,” Embarc CEO Lakshmi Shenoy told the Tampa Bay Business Journal on Wednesday. “We’ve been so focused on doing the work we like doing, which is supporting companies, it all happened organically — we looked up and realized, ‘Oh, we’re working with 25 companies.'”

The space is meant to work in addition to an accelerator or incubator as needed, not a replacement. The Embarc team, which includes an analytics and engineering manager and communications manager, jumps in to give personalized help when needed.

“The team has been built up around startup functions or capabilities that startups need,” Shenoy said.

The companies are also assigned to an “executive advisor” who works with an assigned company remotely on a weekly basis. Embarc currently has five executive advisors for the 25 companies.

“It’s heads down and making companies’ priorities our priority,” Shenoy said. “And that’s been our day-to-day life right now.”

Embarc will not open applications for more companies in the near future but has a wait-list.

The 25 companies that are working with Embarc are:

  • Admiral, a revenue platform that helps companies with adblock recovery, paid subscriptions and privacy consent
  • Blockspaces, a blockchain hub that focuses on education and support services to students and companies
  • CloudSpotter uses machine learning technology to deliver photos to event attendees
  • COI Energy, an on-demand platform that lets businesses maximize energy
  • DataQuest, a teaching platform teaching skills to help data science careers
  • Doc Clocker, which brings transparency to a doctor’s waiting room and helps care delivery efficiency
  • Edgility, a platform to help health care organizations improve workflow outcomes
  • Hire Humanly, which uses artificial intelligence technology to make recruiting more meaningful
  • Grifin, which uses a patent-pending technology to let users automatically buy stock where they shop
  • Immertec, a 3D virtual reality platform that allows users to train, consult and observe in their workplace
  • Ideal Agent, a real estate platform which uses a referral network to cut on agents’ commission
  • Knack, a tutoring platform that connects tutors with employers
  • Just Protect, a regulatory compliance management platform to help minimize risk
  • Peerfit, a digital platform employers can use to encourage their employees to work out with getting connected with one another
  • Metasense Analytics, allows users to unlock the full value in their health care data
  • Pocket, allows users to connect on any app or blockchain with a single line of code
  • Phonism lets users manage all their voice communication (VoIP) calls on one platform
  • Professional Credentials Exchange, a marketplace where users can exchange credentials
  • Proof Network Ventures, a data-driven solutions provider for alcohol brands, wholesalers and retailers
  • Red Perit, a financial technology company which consults with companies to help their products, operations and services become more socially responsible
  • Raven Spatial, uses drones and mapping capabilities
  • Synapse, an organization focused on connecting Florida’s innovation community
  • Stem Rad, which makes personal protection equipment for radiation
  • Synsor Med, a telepath and remote patient monitoring platform
  • Viewz Marketing, which uses real and virtual reality for their advertising platform

“Here’s when Embarc Collective will open — and the 25 companies on its roster”Tampa Bay Business Journal (subscription required)


TBARTA Moving on 41-Mile Bus Rapid Transit Project

Development of a 41-mile bus rapid transit project connecting Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties took another major step forward today when the governing board of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) selected WSP USA to conduct a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study.

Designed to provide faster transit service to commuters as well as an impetus for future projects, the regional bus rapid transit (BRT) route under study begins in downtown St. Petersburg and travels north on I-275 through Tampa before ending in Wesley Chapel. Stops in the Westshore District, downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida are planned.

“TBARTA is committed to developing a world-class regional transit system in Tampa Bay, and bus rapid transit moves us in that direction,” said Jim Holton, TBARTA Chairman. “It’s the right step at the right time.”

WSP USA is a worldwide transportation and infrastructure firm with local offices in Tampa. The company has experience in BRT development and funding, covering all components including bus lanes and busways, stations and maintenance facilities. Over a proposed 28-month timeline, WSP will coordinate with stakeholders and the public to develop design alternatives, study their social, environmental and economic impacts, and use the findings to develop an application for a capital investment grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The TBARTA contract is for three years in an amount not to exceed $5 million.

“Not only will this project provide a more extensive and efficient means to get people where they want to go, it will also serve as a catalyst for future regional transit development,” said David Green, TBARTA Executive Director. “BRT is one of the fastest growing public transport systems, and Tampa Bay is increasingly a regional community with a need for enhanced connectivity that benefits residents, workers, and visitors.”

Meet the New CEO for the Glazer Children’s Museum

The new CEO of the Glazer Children’s Museum swerves around hordes of children at play as they push buttons and lift levers. Wearing a solar orbit necklace with gems representing the sun and planets, she points out her current favorite exhibit, a play farm on the second floor.

Kids are milking a plastic cow, and there’s a pretend garden where they can plant vegetables in cloth waves of fabric. Sarah Cole, 41, likes what this farm exhibit says about the museum staff. It shows they listen.

Cole, who took charge of the sprawling interactive museum in downtown Tampa on April 1, remembers when she last saw this exhibit seven years ago. It was “a challenge,” and not very popular. But museum staff paid attention.

“What kids loved the most before it was redone was planting flowers in the flower boxes of a house under construction. So they watched that. They took notice. They watched what kids enjoyed and then they went back and recrafted it instead of saying, ‘Well that didn’t work, let’s give them something else.’ ”

Retooling based on observations, she said, “speaks to honoring the child.”

The new boss is a familiar face at the Glazer museum. Cole was the director of education when the museum opened in 2010. She created the content for what was then 17 exhibit spaces and more than 150 interactive stations. She left in 2012 for the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and then Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, America’s first planetarium. She was vice president of guest experience there when the Glazer Children’s Museum came calling.

She didn’t have kids when she was last in Tampa, but back then she started a program called Sunshine Sunday, a special monthly event that is still going on. Admission is only $5, and children with special needs can explore the museum with lights and sounds turned down and community resources are at their fingertips.

Now she’s here with a special needs son of her own.

She and her wife, a stay-at-home mom, have twin 6 year olds, and their son is on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, her daughter takes after Cole and her nerdy perfectionist ways. The twins have given Cole a “master class” on how kids the same age can be completely different.

“It’s like the universe was prepping me,” she says. “‘I had to spend time learning about autism and special needs and what the museum needed to address. While it’s a challenge, it was pretty great that I was able to go into this knowing something about it already.”

Last September, the museum’s board forced out Jennifer Stancil, its chief executive since 2015, after some board members, particularly Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, questioned how she had been running the museum.

That’s when Cole said she was contacted, and she was flattered.

In the seven years since she left, the Tampa Riverwalk has been completed and new restaurants have popped up. She’s amazed at the downtown transformation.

She was born in the Indiana college town of Terre Haute and backed into the museum field after dropping out of medical school and taking a job at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest children’s museum. That sent her to the Purdue campus of Indiana University to pursue museum studies. She spent nine years at the Indianapolis museum, rising to manager of special and temporary exhibits when the Glazer education director job opened up in 2010.

She is resisting the urge to intrude on the education team since that’s her wheelhouse, she says. Instead, she’s on a “grand listening tour.”

The museum turns 10 next year and as it enters its tweens, she’s asking both her staff and the community to talk about what the next 10 years should bring. She won’t commit to any announcements or new programs yet, but says it’s time for a refresh.

The private, nonprofit children’s museum operated on $4 million in revenue in 2018, up from $2.45 million three years ago. Hillsborough County will contribute $264,840 in public money to the museum this year. The city of Tampa chipped in $24,000 in 2018.

Free Tuesdays, the popular monthly free admission day, isn’t going anywhere, she says. The museum has also partnered with the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Learn & Play Tampa Bay, a school readiness initiative at five sites including East Tampa, Seffner-Mango and Thonotosassa. With a goal of 10 sites total, the program offers free 90-minute play sessions twice a week aimed at enriching early literacy.

As a museum aimed at ages 10 and younger, school readiness seems like a natural mission says Murman, a county commissioner since 2010 and a museum board member since before it opened.

No school district in Florida has more schools on the state’s low-performing list than Hillsborough, where only half the third-graders who took the state’s reading test last spring passed it.

By picking a known quantity like Cole as CEO, Murman expects her to get off to a brisk start.

“Have you seen her resume?” Murman says. “She has all those elements to make us the number one children’s museum in the Southeast.”

Cole calls what they do more “life readiness” than school readiness.

“We have a great opportunity to provide the tools that will eventually create the generation that’s going to take over this planet. No pressure there, right?” Cole says. “But how could we not want to do the best by these kids? They are going to be the ones dealing with the planet that’s changing so rapidly. We can provide them with the confidence to move forward and the compassion to deal with each other.”

“Sarah Cole, new CEO at Glazer Children’s Museum, is a familiar face” Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)

Boutique law firm joins forces with GrayRobinson’s Tampa office

Mayanne Downs likes to call it the world’s “longest courtship.”

In the forming of a “strategic alliance,” the nine attorneys of Tampa’s Thompson Sizemore Gonzalez & Hearing PA will now operate under the GrayRobinson name, the firms have announced. The boutique firm will join the GrayRobinson office in Tampa as a way to grow its labor and employment practice at a time when those services are in greater demand.

“As we’ve joked before, we’ve dated for a long time, but it’s time to get married,” said Gregory A. Hearing, a shareholder with Thompson Sizemore Gonzalez & Hearing.

Downs, president and managing director of GrayRobinson, is quick to point out that the firms chose their words carefully when announcing the change. It’s not an acquisition, she said, but rather a joining of forces.

“They are so highly-revered and so highly-regarded in this area of law in labor and employment. But not only that, they’re deeply embedded in this state, both in the public and private sectors,” Downs told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Thompson Sizemore Gonzalez & Hearing is known for its work with all areas of labor and employment practice — from employment discrimination to contract negotiations to class-action defense. It’s joining GrayRobinson at a time when the firm is seeing growth. The firm opened a Washington, D.C. office on March 1 — the first time GrayRobinson has crossed the state line — and its Palm Beach office set up shop a few years ago. It operates 14 offices in Florida.

“This ranks right up there with opening the Palm Beach and D.C. office,” Downs said of the partnership.

The firms’ relationship — although unknown at the time — stretches as far back as law school for some attorneys.

“I have been friendly with the attorneys at TSGH for many years, some I have even known since I attended law school. Over the years we have referred matters to each other, and our firms have served as co-defense counsel for common clients,” said Susan Spradley, shareholder and chair of GrayRobinson’s employment and labor practice group, in a statement.

There’s a need for labor and employment attorneys as the Tampa Bay area continues to expand with new businesses and jobs, Downs said.

“Florida is not a union state, but the union representation of public sector employees across the state is large,” she said. “We have seen the issue of what is acceptable, what is appropriate, what is better in the workplace. Now we’re all heightened to the issues.”

Hearing said the Tampa Bay area saw a spike in labor and employment-based lawsuits in the 1980s with businesses being sued for American Disabilities Act violations, most based on inaccessibility to buildings. Today, it’s about technology. The courts are again seeing a spike in the number of alleged ADA violations because businesses haven’t updated their websites to accommodate individuals with hearing or site disabilities.

“It’s kind of a constantly changing environment,” Downs said.

Hearing said several larger law firms over the years have tried to coax Thompson Sizemore Gonzalez & Hearing into joining teams, or many times attempted to “pick off” their clients.

“We’ve really only listened to [GrayRobinson] because they’re incredible lawyers,” he said.

Boutique law firm joins forces with GrayRobinson’s Tampa office” – Tampa Bay Business Journal (subscription required)

Downtown Calendar

Your Downtown Calendar

The following is just a sample of upcoming events in Downtown Tampa.  Visit the Downtown Tampa Events Calendar for a more comprehensive list.

Food Truck Fiesta

Wednesday, May 1, 11am to 2pm
Lykes Gaslight Square
Looking for a larger selection of lunch options? Step outside for a meal in the park! Choose from a wide variety of local food trucks serving up all sorts of delicious culinary creations. You’ll have your pick of dishes from plenty of delectable kitchens on wheels! For more information, go to Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta.

Rock the Park

Thursday, May 2, 6:30pm to 9pm
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Listen to some great musical talent in a beautiful, relaxing setting. This month’s show features The Holy Terror, King of Denmark, and Ivy Alex. With food and drinks on the premises and an always exciting vibe, this free concert is guaranteed not to disappoint. For more information, go to Rock the Park.

Tampa Riverfest 2019

Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4
Tampa Riverwalk
This free community event celebrating the Tampa waterfront will include a full concert line-up, wiener dog derby, Gasparilla stand-up paddle board Invasion, Tampa Bay Pride Band, TacoFest, beer bars, margarita bar, a blessing of the fleet, Taste of the Riverwalk, Hillsborough County School kid performances, and much more. For more information, go to Tampa Riverfest 2019.

Taking the Stage at the Straz Center

Spamilton: An American Parody – Through Sunday, May 12
Jeremy Douglass: Broadway Pre-Show – Tuesday, April 30, begins 7pm
Spring Music Spectacular: Music Made in America – Wednesday, May 1, begins 7:30pm
Arts Legacy REMIX: Global Storytellers – Friday, May 3, begins 6:30pm
Evening of Dance – Friday, May 3, begins 6:30pm
The Florida Orchestra – Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 – Friday, May 3, begins 8pm
The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory, Mal and Parks – Friday, May 3, begins 8:30pm
Beginning Dance 1 Recitals – Saturday, May 4, shows at 10am and 11:30am
Opera Tampa Grand Gala 2019 – Saturday, May 4, begins 6pm
Tampa Bay Symphony presents Sibelius’s Mighty Second – Sunday, May 5, begins 2:30pm

On the Marquee at Tampa Theatre

High Life (2019) – Through Wednesday, May 1
Jenna Hager – Thursday, May 2, begins 8pm
Wild Nights With Emily (2019) – Friday, May 3 to Thursday, May 9
Cabaret (1972) – Friday, May 3, 10:30pm to 12:30am

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Monday Morning Memo –Monday Morning Memo is a weekly update of “insider downtown information” regarding developments, transportation, special opportunities and other useful information to help you make the most of downtown. Subscribe to receive this weekly newsletter.

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