Innovation Hub USA

Liz Weir – SVP Director of Content, Social and PR – Levlane

LIZ WEIR, SVP DIRECTOR OF CONTENT, SOCIAL AND PR LEVLANE

LEVERAGING THE SCIENCE OF STORY TO BUILD BETTER BRANDS AND BREAK THROUGH THE WHITE NOISE

LIZ WEIR, SVP DIRECTOR OF CONTENT, SOCIAL AND PR LEVLANE

LIZ WEIR, SVP DIRECTOR OF CONTENT, SOCIAL AND PR LEVLANE

The brain is a peculiar thing.

You have five, maybe ten seconds to capture your audience’s attention before it shuts down.

That means if I haven’t already done that by now, I’ve lost you. If there is any ambiguity, or the brain has to think too hard, it withdraws.

Technology is changing the landscape and how people interact with brands in ways we never imagined, making it even harder than ever to connect with consumers. Today, they are bombarded with more and more information about all types of companies from every outlet and in every imaginable format.

Clients come to us every day dealing with this situation. They often want to change their branding, improve how they’re viewed in the market, and build trust and loyalty with their customer base. But most are using the old model of pushing their message into the crowded ecosystem. What they fail to realize is that the old way of marketing–pushing your message, pushing your sale, pushing, pushing, pushing–doesn’t work when the market is crowded with comparable messages. But what does work, what does cut through all that noise, is the tried and true method of storytelling.

Let’s think about your company. When someone asks what you do, what do you say? Do you start listing out the problems you solve? The customers you serve? If you do, that’s a problem.

Ask that person what you do a few days later and I’m going to bet they don’t remember, or they misremember what you told them. That’s because when the brain senses that it’s being pitched or sold to, it has a natural cognitive reaction to resist. It pushes back. It overloads. It shuts down.

Now if you were to relay what you do in a simple but engaging story format, something very different happens. Their brain takes that information and claims it as its own–as if they found it. That’s because the brain spends 30% of its waking time daydreaming–when you work, drive, etc. But when you are watching a movie, reading a great book, or listening to a great story, your brain doesn’t daydream: that story is doing the daydreaming for you. The story has literally taken over the brain.

Stories go beyond a product. They resonate because they’re human. They hit you in the feels.

It’s not a list of features. It’s not telling them how great your company is, all the great things you’ve done, or all the people who love you. It’s not about the fanciest technology. It’s about connecting at a subconscious level, it’s about understanding how the brain works and working with it, not against it. It is about the customer, your hero. Your company is simply the guide or the helper to get the hero to the finish line.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. A recent study shows that when you read stories that evoke emotion, it stimulates the brain and even changes how you act. (Paul, Annie M. “Your Brain on Fiction.” The New York Times. Mar. 2012.)

At LevLane, we know and work with all of the latest and greatest technologies– AR, VR, AI, IOT and any other acronyms you can think of. But innovation without story is just a channel, just a medium, just a gadget. Without a story to connect, without a brand to love, without that emotional hook, you are yelling into the void.

Levlane logo - Liz Weir

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PHILADELPHIA, PA 19107
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Robert H. Bishop – Dean of the College of Engineering at USF

Dr. Robert H. Bishop, P.E., Dean of the College Engineering at the University of South Florida.

ENGINEERING LIVES FOR THE BETTER

DEAN ROBERT H. BISHOP - THE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

Dr. Robert H. Bishop, P.E., Dean of the College Engineering at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Robert H. Bishop, P.E., Dean of the College Engineering at the University of South Florida.

“Each day we work harder – relentlessly and creatively – shaping our understanding of mathematics and science for the greater good.”

The College of Engineering at the University of South Florida is at the forefront of engineering research and education, cultivating knowledgeable, passionate engineers who are dedicated to needs-based, solutions-oriented engineering. We are innovators. We are explorers. For us, it’s all about helping people.

After more than fifty years of pursuing excellence in engineering, we remain young in spirit and full of hope for the future. The advantages are evident in our optimism, confidence and innate drive to aim higher than others think possible. Our tools and technology create fuel from landfill gases; save lives in hospitals and operating rooms; provide safer roads and effective transportation systems; purify water and deliver it to those in need; enhance domestic security; contribute to space exploration and so much more.

Building upon four pillars of success – Experiential Learning, Impactful Discovery, Community Partnerships and Educational Leadership – we are educating a diverse group of engineers and problem-solvers to tackle global challenges. By providing our students with hands-on experience in real-world situations, a cutting-edge education and significant research opportunities all driven by community partnerships, we are cultivating the next generation of engineers and fostering innovative solutions that will positively impact lives.

Each day we work harder – relentlessly and creatively – shaping our understanding of mathematics and science for the greater good. We’re proving again and again that engineers have the will power and capacity to directly and positively impact the world around us. Our commitment to partnering with industry is unyielding. We continually seek to promote the influential nature of our achievements through effective partnerships. The success of our students, research and multidisciplinary solutions is a reflection of both the quality of education we offer and the rate by which we balance change with adherence to our foundational ideals and values. Through educational leadership, impactful discovery, experiential learning and community partnerships, our evolving vision to foster a global approach to engineering by capitalizing on the international perspectives and diversity of students and faculty is driving value in the community. 

Greg Ross-Munro – Communicating with Techies

Greg Ross-Munro with book
sourcetoad logo - Greg Ross-Munro

COMMUNICATING WITH TECHIES

FOUNDER, CEO AT SOURCETOAD, FOUNDER, CTO AT DATA & SONS

Greg Ross-Munro with book

What to Look for in a Digital Agency

Whether you want to augment an in-house team or bring an entirely new product to life, odds are, you’re going to entertain the idea of hiring an agency. By an “agency”, I mean everything from advertising companies offering digital design services to pure propeller-head software engineering firms. As long as they do “work for hire” jobs, where the client ends up owning the intellectual property and there is more than one person working there, we’ll call them an agency.

Agencies come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not unusual for an agency to have most of the staff and expertise you’ll need to take your application from concept to launch and beyond. They will have programmers, graphic designers, project managers, and even someone to bring you tea while you wait in their lobby. This is the type of organization I run day to day, minus the person to bring you tea. Sorry.

Other than the stability a larger organization brings you over individual freelancers, there are three main factors to look for in an agency: location, specialization, and reputation.

LOCATION

Having your developers close enough that you can be in their offices within half a day might sound like an old-fashioned idea. In this age of telecommuting and virtual offices, why should you care about where someone works?

Sharing a common geography also means you share a common culture, language, and frame of reference. Odds are, your end users are also in either the same or a similar locale. If a developer were building new ATM software for a bank, it would help tremendously if the design team could spend a few days watching existing customers use the old systems. Nothing drives home a point about user experience more than watching a pensioner struggle with a badly designed interface, just so they can withdraw some cash to go shopping.

Empathy breeds good design. It humanizes the code an engineer writes, because now it becomes personal. Teams can instantly see how their creations touch the lives of the very real people who use them. This is especially important in engineering, where most problems are so abstract that concerns become almost entirely practical and programmers forget that actual human beings will interact with their systems. That’s hard to do when your development agency is in Canada and your bank is in Mexico. It also helps if you can drive to your developer’s offices and yell at them when things don’t go right. Okay, okay, it might not help, but it offers some catharsis.

SPECIALIZATION

cats-coders-ebook - Greg Ross-Munro

Specialization requirements are often the driving factor in a software engineering hiring decision. Specializations can be industry specific or technology focused, or both. For example, my team focuses on application development in the hospitality field, with a technology focus on crossplatform development.

If you’re a startup in the food service industry looking to build your stack in Java, there is probably a company out there for you. They might not be close by, but their expertise would outweigh location considerations. Keep in mind that specialists always cost more. If you get to pick the type of work you do and call yourself an expert in your field, that means you can – and certainly will – charge a premium.

REPUTATION

Portfolios or client testimonials are important, regardless of whether you hire a two-person freelance shop or a 500-person strong New York design firm. One of the problems you might run into with an agency is that the majority of their work may be under NDAs or white-labeled as another firm’s property. Do some behind-the-scenes vetting by asking about the company’s reputation and see if you can talk to some of their previous customers.

Sadly, some of the coolest things my team has ever built will remain a secret forever. If you hire a software firm to build your medical health records security system, you don’t want to have them advertise it on their website! Even worse, we’ve built award-winning systems only to watch our clients go and claim their Webby Awards. We did get a thank-you email, though.

Be careful of: “Our developers have worked with these major brands,” a favorite of the shady agency. Basically, this is the weasel’s way of saying, “Some of the people who work here used to work for companies that worked for those companies, or they worked for those companies themselves at some point.” Their sentiment is technically accurate, but also misleading. Just because your current graphic designer served coffee at Starbucks in college, that doesn’t mean your agency built software for them.

So, if you are planning on building out your next great idea using an agency, make sure you assess them on location, specialization, and reputation. Choosing wisely will ultimately mean success for your project. Keep in mind that it is much more expensive to have to build something twice because the first team you hired couldn’t deliver!

linkedin: gregrossmunro
twitter: gregdrm
sourcetoad.com

Santiago C. Corrada, President and CEO – Visit Tampa Bay

SANTIAGO C. CORRADA _ PRESIDENT AND CEO - VISIT TAMPA BAY

A UNIQUE COMBINATION OF CULTURE AND HISTORY

SANTIAGO C. CORRADA, PRESIDENT AND CEO - VISIT TAMPA BAY

SANTIAGO C. CORRADA _ PRESIDENT AND CEO - VISIT TAMPA BAY

“Imagine working in a place that feels like being on vacation every day of the week.”

Imagine working in a place that feels like being on vacation every day of the week. Now pair that image with a unique combination of culture and history, an amazing and innovative food scene, a community founded on creativity and dedicated to making things happen. You’ve just discovered Tampa Bay.

At Visit Tampa Bay, we are focused on bringing visitors from around the world to experience the excitement and fun found here in the hip, urban heart of Florida’ west coast. Tourism has a multi-billion-dollar local footprint in terms of employment and government revenues. But it’s true impact spreads farther than that: every visitor who makes a special memory during their stay in Tampa Bay becomes an ambassador for the destination when they return home.

And when it comes time to look for a new job or to expand or relocate their business, they’ll remember the fun they had with their family and friends under the warm Florida sun here in Tampa Bay. Tourism is a key part of our community’s soft power: The same things that make Tampa Bay such a great place to visit – the blue skies, the sparkling water, the amazing food, the craft beer — also make it a great place to live year-round and operate a business.

Every day, Visit Tampa Bay works closely with our colleagues at the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation on “Make It Tampa Bay,” a joint initiative that builds on our success marketing this destination to residents of the Northeast, Midwest, and Texas. Make It Tampa Bay follows that same path but fine-tunes the message to Millennial entrepreneurs and investors looking for new opportunities and a community that has thrived on innovation since the days of Don Vicente Martinez Ybor and Henry B. Plant.

Visitors find that innovation in thousands of new hotel rooms on the rise, in the boundless creativity of our chefs and brewmasters, in the cheering crowds at a professional sports game, and in the repeated reinvention of experiences at our family-friendly attractions. Those changes reflect a community that remains pointed in the direction of progress and continually inviting the world to join it in the journey.
Treasure awaits.

Phone: 813-223-1111
Email: SCorrada@VisitTampaBay.com
twitter: @SantiagoCorrada

Judy Genshaft – All Great Cities have Great Research Universities

USF Judy Genshaft
usf logo

ALL GREAT CITIES HAVE GREAT RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES

JUDY GENSHAFT - PRESIDENT, USF SYSTEM

As the state’s first public research university to be located in a metropolitan region, the University of South Florida System has always been proud of its relationship with the Tampa Bay community we serve.

USF Judy Genshaft

“USF ranks 25th among public universities
for research spending.”

We live in an era when the public increasingly depends on research universities to be a key driver of global innovation. In response, our researchers and scholars are bringing incredible new ideas to life as they help students prepare to share their creative talents locally and globally.

It is that passion for making life better that powers our commitment to innovation and invention. USF is the nation’s fifth leading public university in generating new United States utility patents, and ranks 12th among universities worldwide in this key measure of innovation. We continue to stand with some of the world’s most prestigious institutions in this highly competitive arena, including the University of California System, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Stanford University. On a global scale, 2018 was the eighth year that USF ranked in the top 20.

USF faculty members have invented new technologies to assist people with disabilities and fight cancer with nanotechnology. Their innovations are converting waste to liquid fuel and they are creating the systems that run robots and augmented reality. Our faculty is making significant contributions to our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and brain injury, helping find solutions to potentially life-threatening food allergies, and developing ways of ensuring the sustainability of coastal communities and essential resources such as food, energy and water. These are just a few of the many ways USF is shaping the future.

USF ranks 25th among public universities for research spending – a metric used to chart the level of research activity at American institutions – according to the National Science Foundation. Ranking in the top 25 nationally reflects USF’s dramatic rise as a public research university. In 2017, USF’s annual research expenditures were $558 million, more than triple the amount from the early 2000s.

The NSF ranking is a key indicator of our commitment to life-changing research. So is our designation by the Florida Board of Governors as a Preeminent State Research University – one of only three in the state. It is truly a new era of progress and success at USF, and we are just getting started. We are making significant investments in our residential, academic and research facilities, including our new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa. This project, in the heart of the Water Street redevelopment project, symbolizes who we are and what we stand for as a university and a community.

USF’s talented and passionate faculty, staff and students share an unwavering commitment to improving lives here in Tampa Bay and around the world. As we work together to solve some of our most pressing challenges, we make an immeasurable impact for generations to come.

Thank you for your support.

GO BULLS!

Lakshmi Shenoy – Embarc Collective

Lakshmi Shenoy Headshot
Lakshmi Shenoy Headshot

EMBARC COLLECTIVE

LAKSHMI SHENOY

As a newcomer to the Tampa Bay region, I’ve had the opportunity to spend the past year immersing myself in the entrepreneurial community that has been growing here. Locals understand that Tampa Bay is a great place to live and get to experience that life each day. However, beyond the functional benefits: weather, economy, etc., there is a mindset advantage that exists here. This community is open to growth, optimistic about this region’s potential and “all in” to help in this effort. This is distinct to Tampa Bay and should not be something we take for granted. It should be celebrated and leveraged, as many regions resist the type of growth and change that we embrace.

While we have the mindset and many functional benefits on our side, there is a still a great amount of work to be done to make Tampa Bay a prime destination for startup talent. From my vantage point, there are three main challenges to address:

1) Building Our Regional Startup Brand: Outside of Tampa Bay, we aren’t known as a viable place to grow a startup business because we aren’t telling our story outside of our region. Promoting the latest rankings about Tampa Bay stories won’t change the perception. What will change the perception is telling the stories of the people and the companies at the forefront of change, much like what this book does. It’s sharing these teams’ successes, but also showing how they remain resilient through the face of inevitable startup hardship, supported by a community that backs them during the ups and downs. These people and companies and their successes shape the story of our region’s startup identity.

2) Increasing the Density of Startup Opportunities: Building a startup is incredibly difficult. 75% of venture-backed startups fail. That means even if you’ve created a company and are one of the few who successfully manage to raise investment to scale your business, you still only have a 25% chance of success. If a region’s startup identity is formed by its notable success stories, we need to build a bigger pipeline so that more companies can make it through and beat the odds against them. It’s simple math – the more we can get into the top of the funnel, the better the chance that one company will make it through the funnel and achieve success. That means increasing the volume of new ventures that are founded in Tampa Bay and the volume of companies that grow in Tampa Bay.

3) Being Patient and Persistent: People often look to Austin as a non-Silicon Valley startup region success. The reality is that SXSW started 21 years ago. Building a regional startup identity takes patience and persistence. Even Boulder has been at it for well over a decade. Since moving to Tampa Bay, I’ve been excited by all the activity occurring through groups including the Tampa Bay Wave, which is helping startups with mentorship and readiness for capital raises through its accelerator program; the Florida Israel Business Accelerator, which is bringing Israeli startups to Tampa Bay and in turn, creating global connectivity for our region and a soft landing for companies that are looking to grow in the United States; and Synapse, which is digitally connecting members of the innovation community to opportunity through their growing platform. We need to keep at it and continue to support these efforts to build and grow our entrepreneurial community.

The mission of Embarc Collective, the newest supporter of the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial community, is to help make Tampa Bay a prime destination for diverse startup talent to make an impact. This is a big vision and takes all of us, the collective – entrepreneurs and their teams, investors, supporters, prospective startup talent and the broader Tampa Bay community to make this happen. But if there is one region that can make this vision a reality, it’s Tampa Bay.

Email: lakshmi@embarccollective.com
twitter: @lshenoy / @embarccollectiv
www.embarccollective.com

Synapse VIP Thought Leader – Mark Blumenthal

Marc Blumenthal - synapse

BRINGING INNOVATION PARTNERS TOGETHER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SYNAPSE FLORIDA PARTNER, FLORIDA FUNDERS

Marc Blumenthal - synapse

Together we are shaping our own destiny.
Together we are demonstrating that
“Innovation Lives Here.”

It is hard to believe that it’s been two years since the launch of Synapse. Every day since then has been a validation of our mission: to connect Florida’s innovation communities in a meaningful, purposeful way. As I’ve traveled the state I’ve seen first hand the passion and creativity that have created an incredible tapestry of innovation and opportunity in Florida. The proof lies on every page of this book.

Florida has a lot to celebrate: a population growing by nearly 2,000 people per day; business-friendly laws that support innovation; research institutions producing innovation ready for commercialization; some of our country’s best universities and colleges with hundreds of thousands of students ready to build their careers; innovation in industries from biotech to cybersecurity, from manufacturing to virtual reality, from space exploration to egaming; and a growing cadre of serial entrepreneurs who continue to reinvest both by building new businesses and by paying it forward as mentors to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Major companies and organizations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build manufacturing centers, innovation spaces, Fab Labs, wet labs and simulation centers available to innovators and entrepreneurs, hackers and makers.

Individually, these are great resources. Together they are a powerful engine of growth. In so many ways, Florida has more to offer innovators and entrepreneurs than most anywhere else in the country. The challenge is enabling the talent and resources anywhere in the state to easily find each other.

Synapse is meeting that challenge by bringing innovation partners together within a thoughtful framework. We are building a community that enables these resources to collaborate and accelerate success across our state by making these people, companies, and resources more visible and using our events, challenges and digital tools to find and connect with the ones who can help you grow your business.

We’ve already demonstrated that by working together the rising tide really is lifting all boats.

The 2018 Synapse Summit was a tipping point when more than 3,300 innovators, entrepreneurs, and community members, along with 250 companies, came together to celebrate, educate and inspire each other. The impact was real. Investors found deal flow. Founders met partners. Companies found talent. Students saw a path to a career. The Synapse Summit made it clear that innovation does, in fact, live here.

Synapse Challenges are igniting the innovation ecosystem and fueling the talent pipeline, as hackers and makers from coast to coast participate in solving real-world problems. Like designing a chatbot so that Metropolitan Ministries can help the homeless and hungry in urgent need who reach out on social media. Or the juniors at Florida Polytechnic University, whose solution to a blockchain challenge resulted in an unexpected prize: a job. Or the enthusiasm from SunTrust Bank Foundation, Guidewell Florida Blue, Grow Financial Federal Credit Union and others that will launch Synapse Challenges in 2019 because they see the value they have for their own companies and for inspiring the innovation community.

Synapse Connect will continue to become the primary online space for innovators to quickly curate meaningful connections, reducing the degrees of separation between what you have and what you need. This platform will continue to expand enabling the incredible number of people, organizations, and resources to find and be found, think Match.com meets Netflix purpose-built for Florida’s innovation communities.

We are so thankful to the enthusiastic and generous community that has come together to make the Synapse movement possible. The companies and community partners that have stepped up to be on the Synapse Board represent our most passionate advocates and important leaders that will shape our movement’s future.

But, this is only the beginning. We still have work to do.

Synapse is building bridges – in person and online – connecting innovation communities, shrinking the state and making resources visible and accessible, turning the vastness of our geography into our greatest asset.

Florida is one of the best places to build a life, career, and company. Together we are shaping our own destiny. Together we are demonstrating that “Innovation Lives Here.”

Andy Hafer synapse primary logo (1)

facebook: synapseFL
instagram: synapseflorida
linkedin: synapsefl

Tom Wallace – 5 Reasons to Invest in Early Stage Technology

Tom Wallace - Florida Funding

FIVE REASONS TO INVEST IN EARLY STAGE TECHNOLOGY

TOM WALLACE, MANAGING PARTNER FOR FLORIDA FUNDERS

Early stage innovation and technology companies are one of the best investment opportunities available today. Florida is at the forefront of a blooming technology landscape and Florida Funders, a hybrid of a venture capital fund and crowd-funding platform that invests in emerging trends, has a passion for growing the next generation of Florida tech companies. Led by an experienced team of serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and experienced angel investors, Florida Funders has a proven track record for finding strong investment opportunities in early stage companies.

If you’ve been sitting on capital and you’re looking for a new way to experience growth, Florida Funders has five reasons you should invest in early stage technology:

Be one of the first to invest in in the most innovative, emerging Florida companies. Florida Funders has a strong team of leaders that work tirelessly to find the best technology companies throughout the state. In many of our recent investments, Florida Funders has been the first institutional money into our portfolio companies, this gives all our investors a tremendous opportunity to get in on the ground floor and help the company to grow and develop through our time, talent and our treasure.

Tom Wallace - Florida Funding

Support the future of Florida. Our mission is to turn the Sunshine State into the Startup State. By investing in Florida companies, you’re supporting the economic growth of our state to help make our communities throughout Florida become one of the best places to build a great business, career and life. For every great technology company and technology job that is added to our state, there is a significant growth in non-tech, service-related jobs, such as hospitality, insurance, and real estate. We’ve partnered with key players within Florida to support technology growth statewide. Recently, we’ve acquired Florida Angel Nexus (NEXUS), an Orlando-based firm that has facilitated more than $20 million in funding to Florida startups. We’ve also been selected by the Institute for Commercialization of Florida Technology to enter into contract negotiations to serve as Private Fund Manager to manager their portfolio of funded companies, which consists of businesses in all segments of the innovation economy including the life sciences, digital information, clean energy and other emerging sectors. Through June 30, 2018, funded companies had raised in excess of $255 million in private investment capital, a ratio of 10:1 to State funds invested, and the overall economic impact of the Institute since 2011 is over $1.4 billion (Washington Economics Group 2018 Study). We believe it’s imperative to get involved throughout the community to stay on top of the latest opportunities.

Assets are non-correlated to the current market trends. We invest in companies that are not directly impacted by current stock market and industry trends. For example, we’ve recently invested in PICKUP, an agile last mile delivery platform for large or heavy retail products. Consumers are goingto continue to purchase big-ticket items, such as furniture and mattresses. Often times, retailers are unable to fulfill large and/or heavy products conveniently enough to meet the needs of today’s consumers. With PICKUP, customers can select their items, request delivery at the checkout and have their goods delivered to the room of choice in as little as one hour.

Early stage technology provides a diverse portfolio. Technology is more than just an electronic device or software. Today’s technology companies are innovative disruptors to very classic industries and business problems. In some ways, tech is any business that can scale and create significant differentiation by leveraging things like mobile apps, AI, Augmented Reality and big data. Our portfolio features a vast array of innovative startups throughout the state. In addition to PICKUP, we’ve invested in Homee, a Tampa, Florida based on-demand mobile application responsible for connecting customers with local service providers. Homee provides homeowners, property managers, offices, restaurants, hotels and more with access to handymen, electrical, HVAC, plumbing service providers through the Apple and Android application. Or, take Rep Scrubs as an example. RepScrubs, a Sanford, Floridabased smart scrub solution for modern medical facilities. RepScrubs provides a vending machine system that distributes disposable scrubs for medical device representatives inside of hospitals to create a more sterile solution for healthcare. Between PICKUP, Homee and RepScrubs alone, we have an expansive reach of companies that are affecting various markets.

Today, wealth is created in the private market, not the public market. Companies are waiting longer to go public because there’s so much money in the private equity market. By the time they go public, they are worth billions and it is very hard to generate more wealth in the public market. Uber, a private company, is valued at over $68 billion-dollars. Once they decide on an IPO, investors won’t make near the return that the earlier investors made. Imagine if you had invested in Uber at $50 million, $500 million, or even $5 billion-dollars, and its forecasted to go public at $120 billion, early investors will see returns between 50 and 2,500 times their investment. Florida Funders investors can not only gain access to Florida’s best early stage companies, they can spread their investment capital across enough private companies for intelligent diversification.

Tom Wallace co-founded his first company at the age of 23 and has been involved in starting, growing and building businesses since. He has been an active tech angel investor for the past 25 years. Prior to joining Florida Funders, he served as the CEO for Vector Solutions, a SaaS company providing services in the online training compliance space in which he invested in 2003. In 2016, Vector Solutions was purchased by Providence Equity Partners, a $40 billion-dollar private equity firm.

Florida Funders logo - Tom Wallace

1311 North Westshore Blvd, Suite 101 Tampa, Florida 33607
Phone: 813-775-6990
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www.floridafunders.com

Sheryl Hunter, Esquire – Founder & President

SHERYL HUNTER, ESQUIRE - FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT of Hunter Business Law

CURIOSITY, AUTHENTICITY & ABUNDANCE

Characteristics for a successful life and a thriving community.

SHERYL HUNTER, ESQUIRE - FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT

SHERYL HUNTER, ESQUIRE - FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT of Hunter Business Law
Sheryl Hunter, Esquire - Founder and President

Sheryl Hunter is the President of Hunter Business Law – The Entrepreneur’s Law Firm – which serves growth-focused entrepreneurs and their business enterprises, from newbie founders to serial entrepreneurs and angel investors. In addition to managing her growing six attorney firm, Sheryl is actively engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as counsel to and investor in Florida Funders, board member of Synapse, and mentor and chair of the advisory board of “GEMS” (Girls Empowered Mentally for Success)
and its social venture, Transitions Candles. She is celebrating 20 years married to Gabe and raising two terrific teens, Logan and Aspen.

After 23 years of practicing law, working with hundreds of entrepreneurs and running my own businesses, I have observed 3 characteristics that contribute to the success of individuals and which are also fundamental to a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

INSATIABLE CURIOSITY. People with an insatiable curiosity are observant and stay ahead of trends. They engage in lifelong learning, daily. In the world of lawyers, we must be highly skilled in our chosen practice areas, but we also need to be effective issue spotters, educated about our clients’ industry and mindful of a broad array of subjects in order to consider more than the obvious issues at hand. In any business or profession, to be a good leader, a true advisor, and a valued contributor you must explore new concepts, read about your craft, and discover on a deeper level who people are and what they care about, so you can meet their needs and collaborate effectively.

AUTHENTICITY. I often advise younger people to develop and maintain a personal and professional brand that is rooted in truth and consistency. My favorite quote is “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a secondrate version of somebody else” by Judy Garland. Once you have a grasp of your unique talents and niche, you can also discern how to engage in your highest and best use, delegating that in which you do not excel to others. In his book Key Person of Influence, Daniel Priestly identifies the “entrepreneur’s sweet spot” as the intersection of (a) do what you love; (b) do what you’re good at; and (c) do what makes money. Well said.

PERSPECTIVE OF ABUNDANCE. To develop a high achieving company culture and a growing client roster, have a perspective of abundance. Share contacts, make introductions, and advocate and promote clients and colleagues. While there is certainly a place for protecting company assets and valuing your time, do not lose sight of the benefits of co-opetition over competition. A scarcity mentally that results in hoarding clients, contacts and especially knowledge is not a long-term strategy for opportunity to knock on your door. Think Karma.

These same characteristics of successful people can be said of successful communities. For innovators to come and stay in Tampa Bay we need to be an educated, skilled, lifelong learning community where the best and brightest are welcomed, engaged and inspired. We need an authentic community brand – how are we unique and captivating as compared to other areas of the country? Florida Funders has its mission embodied in its tagline “Sunshine State to Startup State”, while the tagline of Synapse is “Innovation Lives Here.” We are building these positive identities with each new grant awarded to Tampa Bay WaVE, with the opening of Embarc Collective, and with the addition of venture-like funds launched by universities to provide capital to their enterprising students and alumni.

If we can take the knowledge that comes with insatiable curiosity and couple it with authenticity and then foster true co-opetition by and between all of the members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, our community can be as successful and inspiring as individuals who have these characteristics.

Hunter Business Law Entrepreneurs Law Firm logo

Phone: 813-867-2640
Email: hunter@hunterbusinesslaw.com
www.hunterbusinesslaw.com

David Robinson – CEO – DSM Technology Consultants

DAVID ROBINSON - CEO - DSM TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANTS

“UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING”

DAVID ROBINSON - CEO - DSM TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANTS

“There’s never been a faster rate of change of what makes businesses work – from the way they sell, to the way they go to market, to the way they run their operations.”

People say there’s nothing new under the sun, and I completely disagree. If you look at things from a macro- or micro-perspective, cloud computing is merging with mobile computing and that’s going to form what I call “Ubiquitous Computing”—meaning your computing is everywhere. If you think about your business, your Apple watch, your smart scale—the whole world is now measuring, and it is computing for you. When we couple this technology with 5G communication technology, now you have continuous ubiquitous communication, meaning we are never on the face of this earth without being measured, being sampled, being computed, being calculated, being stored.

Companies that don’t innovate to accommodate these advances will become dinosaurs. They will die. There’s never been a faster rate of change of what makes businesses work – from the way they sell, to the way they go to market, to the way they run their operations; you have to be automating and using machine learning. AI—all of these things that seemed like science fiction 10 or 15 years ago – are in today’s market. And you have to embrace them, you have to have a good understanding of them, you have to know how it’s going to set your company apart… If you are doing the same thing you did last year, let alone 5 years ago, you will be out of business.

DAVID ROBINSON - CEO - DSM TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANTS

The ability to access data and the ability to sift through that data is ushering in what I see as the era of Bots, service agents which can go out there and do work for us. We use them already to find the best flight deals, the best hotel deals, and so on. Bots, using machine learning and AI, will become undifferentiated from a personal assistant. Maybe they can’t personally bring you your coffee, but they can order it and have it delivered to you.

Maybe that’s scary, but that’s the world we’re living in. We’re entering the age of the bots, entering the age of ubiquitous computing, and it’s a fun time to be in technology. And think about where it all started, how far we’ve come. I saw my first computer when my dad, who served in Vietnam, took me with him to pick up his paycheck from a U.S. Army facility. The computers there had eight-inch tapes and punch cards, and to me that was awe-inspiring.

And when you think about that and think about today, where computing is going and taking us—we don’t even think about computers being embedded in any device, or about the computing power in things smaller than a cell phone. So, we have an exciting world ahead of us; more computing, more data, more information, and more  reasurement going on. We’re going to understand more about our physical world than we ever have in the past.
It’s exciting.

I’ve started over 15 companies, many in Central Florida, all in tech, so Central Florida has been a great place and has allowed me to attract talent from all over the world because of its wonderful weather and location. The challenge, though, is getting enough well-trained technical people. Fortunately, Florida universities are cranking out great interns who we get a chance to mold and grow. If we can do a better job at one thing, it would be educating and retaining this next generation. People don’t realize what’s in our backyard, but we are committed to bringing about that awareness.

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Phone: 877-376-6381
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