Tampa Bay’s innovation scene is Awesome; and it is our local innovators, visionaries and entrepreneurs who are leading the charge, allowing our region to survive through the current pandemic and thrive once we come out on the other side. Their unrestrained resilience and ability to pivot according to current economic demands and consumer needs will no doubt result in more exciting new enterprises sprouting up right here in our community, in response to COVID-19.
Tampa Bay has strategically and successfully positioned itself as an innovation hub, with trailblazing efforts such as the Synapse Summit and the many interconnected entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) that are accessible to start-ups, entrepreneurs and executives. The country is taking note, as Tampa becomes one of America’s fastest-growing cities.
A new jewel in Tampa Bay’s innovation crown is Embarc Collective. There are a lot of existing resources for entrepreneurial support, from incubators and accelerators to co-working spaces—Tampa Bay has established a firm foundation for a vibrant startup scene. Embarc Collective is a new player that is amplifying those existing resources and strengthening the connection among them.
Tampa Bay Lightning owner, Jeff Vinik personally recruited Embarc Collective CEO Lakshmi Shenoy, previously the VP of Strategy and Business Development for Chicago’s top-ranked tech entrepreneurship hub. Shenoy met with leaders and members of Tampa Bay’s startup community to ensure that Embarc Collective melded into our community as neither an incubator nor an accelerator, but rather as a custom support model for sophisticated start-ups; primarily focused on technology-based and tech-enabled companies. Most incubators and accelerators have a core of volunteer consultants. Embarc Collective provides individualized, catered support from a team of staffed Executive Advisors, each offering a specific expertise pertaining to industry niche and stage of growth. Identifying this prior gap in Tampa Bay’s entrepreneur scene is what lead Shenoy to develop Embarc Collective’s custom support model. Member companies are paired with an on-staff Executive Advisor for regular strategy sessions, milestone-focused implementation and accountability. It is critical to the Embarc Collective team that they choose the right individual member companies who are coachable and willing to learn and are not just looking to be connected to investors.
Most of Embarc Collective’s member companies have traction and a defined Minimum Viable Product. Some are post-revenue, some are still in seed-funding rounds, some are in early beta testing. Embarc Collective’s formula provides custom coaching and very structured programming, along with access to an extensive list of partners and experts who provide critical guidance in building foundational structure and scalability into the business.
As an educational non-profit organization, Embarc Collective is officially the first tenant of Water Street, housed in a 32,000 square foot innovation facility, retrofitted inside a historic brick warehouse in downtown Tampa. The world-class startup hub provides amenities including a nursing room for moms, a quiet space to escape distraction, a kitchen, and a coffee shop called Endeavr (powered by Tampa-proud Blind Tiger Café) as well as a production studio, complete with audio/video/podcasting equipment and a green screen. Member companies are given access to weekly workshops and events with local and national specialist speakers on topics like finance, legal, marketing and hiring.
Embarc Collective is dedicated to its community outreach efforts around entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. More than the desire to be a landing spot for high-potential tech startups, it is important to the Embarc Collective team to be an integral part of the community and the Tampa-area business ecosystem as a whole.
Founded in early 2018, Embarc Collective currently has 48 member companies and has room for more. There are no deadlines for applications. With investors and innovators alike scrambling to answer the abrupt shifts in public needs and consumer demands during our current global crisis, the environment is ripe for Tampa Bay to produce its next unicorn…and Embarc Collective is here to do just that.
By Jodi McLean 4/16/2020