Florida’s Startup Movement: What To Expect At Techstars Startup Week 2019

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

Techstars has become a formidable force in the tech entrepreneurial community, with more than 1,600 companies joining the Techstars portfolio through their participation in its accelerator.

Since launching in 2006, Techstars has produced more than 4,000 events in 150-plus countries led by founders David Cohen, David Brown, Brad Feld and Jared Polis.


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Techstars alumni have received $6.2 billion in funding. In exchange, each company must agree to give up 6 percent of common stock.

Moguldom has covered the success of many founders who participated in the Techstars program, including Upsie, Fixt, Goodr, PopCom Kiosk by Solutions Vending and more.

With an accelerator program, studio, boot camps, week-long and weekend programs, Techstars has built a strong worldwide network of entrepreneurs, corporations and venture capitalists. Educating the tech industry on solid business principles is kind of Techstars’ thing.

Techstars

Florida is lucky enough to be the home of two upcoming Techstars programs — Startup Week (underway as we speak) and Startup Weekend. Startup Week is a five-day event where local organizers plan sessions and bring in experts to share information with entrepreneurs in their area. Startup Weekend is a 54-consecutive-hour event where participants get matched with mentors and founders to build and launch a startup in 54 hours.

This year, Techstars Startup Week For. Lauderdale leads right into Startup Week Tampa Bay. For two weeks, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 8, Techstars turns the state orange. Floridians can register for free sessions on topics covering tech, public relations, marketing, talent development, fundraising, legal, financing and more.

The Fort Lauderdale week-long event has partnered with Black Tech Week, which will be held in Miami from Feb. 5 to Feb. 9, hosting three networking events for attendees. While South Florida’s Startup Week is just getting into its groove — this is the third annual event and 30 sessions scheduled — the West Central Florida version is hitting its stride.

Marc Lissade, an organizer of Startup Week Fort Lauderdale, shared his hope for the impact of the event.

“We are at the very beginning of the global innovation economy,” Lissade told Moguldom. “Fort Lauderdale is an early-stage ecosystem which is why we are doing events like this to educate the public about startup culture. The coolest aspect we have that no other conference offers is that we immediately follow Startup Week with Startup Weekend, where attendees turn into participants and get to build and launch a startup in 54 hours.”

Unlike South Florida, Tampa Bay’s Startup Week is going on its fifth year. It’s one of Techstars leaders in attendance and growth. Startup Week Tampa Bay offers 122 sessions centrally located in the state with venues in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Attendees of Startup Week are not just individuals looking to start a business or who have recently launched one. They are veteran business owners, corporate employees attending to learn new things, venture capitalists looking for Tampa’s innovative companies and community leaders and politicians.

Tammy Charles, founder and CEO of Tampa Bay Spark, is one of the 200-plus speakers for the upcoming event.

“Startup Week is important because it creates a sense of community in the startup world and allows people to connect and engage in areas where they can grow and thrive in their businesses,” Charles said.

Many people think of the startup community as 20-year-old white males living at home with their parents and plugging away in some dark room on a computer. The Florida startup community is continuously pushing against that stereotype.

Organizing teams and attendees for the weeklong Tampa Bay event continue to grow in representation. Entrepreneurs have noticed a turnout that includes more people with unique backgrounds.

This year’s discussions include “The Untapped Power of Diversity” with Charles as a panelist, scheduled for Day 1. “This is a critical conversation — the social and economic benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion while highlighting the missed opportunities that occur when we don’t value diversity in various areas of our communities,” she said.

People are finally starting to acknowledge that startup in Florida is a movement, said Tampa’s lead organizer, JR Griggs.

“People are realizing how big the startup community is here, and how much talent there is,” Griggs said. After the 2018 event, Griggs told 83 Degrees Media, “A common theme heard last year (from) people coming from outside of Tampa: They didn’t realize how big of a movement was happening.”

Companies such as Publix, Chase for Business, Clear Channel and Microsoft are among the sponsors of this year’s Tampa Bay event, along with local incubators and accelerator programs.

There’s a push towards embracing the theme, “no excuses.” It goes beyond entrepreneur to pushing others in the community to participate in making Tampa Bay a great startup ecosystem.

A local Black tech leader, Florence Davis, joined the organizational team this year and is leading the technology track.

“People can expect innovative technologies,” Davis said. “They also can expect to take away tangible items from each workshop that they can implement immediately. They will get a deep dive into emerging technologies including Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Augmented Reality.”

Coming on the heels of the recent Synapse conference, Techstars Startup Week, Weekend and the upcoming Black Tech Week are adding proof to what leaders in Florida have been saying. Florida’s tech community is open for business.


About Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

Ebony T. Grimsley-Vaz is an author and digital marketing and PR expert for consumer brands, retailers, causes and events. Based in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, she owns Above Promotions, a digital marketing, publicity and promotions company. She wrote the book, "Because You're Small: Effective Marketing Strategies for Immediate Implementation."