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Artificial intelligence innovation lab sets up shop in Ybor City

Margie Manning



Adriana Avakina, CEO, TheIncLab, presenting at the Tampa Bay Wave TechDiversity Pitch Night in St. Petersburg last year.

A few months after taking part in Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity accelerator, TheIncLab has established an office in Ybor City.

The company, headquartered in Washington, D.C. and with an office in Nashville, develops artificial intelligence-based systems designed to learn and collaborate with humans. On Monday, the company moved into The Undercroft, a cybersecurity guild and development center in Ybor City.

Local civic, business and government leaders have been pushing to grow the technology sector, so the TheIncLab’s decision to open an office here comes as welcome news.

“TheIncLab’s announcement is further proof that Tampa’s reputation as a rising tech market is gaining national attention and attracting some really innovative companies,” said Marie Chinnici-Everitt, managing director of The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. and chair of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.

The Tampa Bay EDC worked closely with TheIncLab on the deal, said Adriana Avakian, founder and CEO. She wanted a location in the Tampa-St. Pete area to be close to customers, including U.S. military operations, and to take advantage of local talent.

“We looked at many different locations. We expanded in Nashville. We looked in Austin, Texas. We looked at the west coast,” Avakian said. “We started coming to Tampa last year and between the proximity to CENTCOM [United States Central Command] and SOCOM [United States Special Operations Command], and the access to talent, I made the decision that Tampa should be home for us.”

The first two local employees started work Monday and Avakian is finalizing onboarding for two more. Avakian splits her own time between Tampa and Washington and eventually expects to have a C-level executive at the Ybor site.

“There’s a significant amount of talent looking to work on emerging technology and engineering in the type of environment we can provide,” she said. “We posted an ad on Dec. 10 for these four positions and we got within 48 hours 300-plus applicants.”

Avakian anticipates hiring up to 15 developers and engineers in the next year. “If we find a local investment partner, we would love to scale even faster,” she said.

TheIncLab is an exciting addition to the Tampa Bay Region’s innovation ecosystem, said University of South Florida College of Engineering Professor Sudeep Sarkar, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and co-director for USF Institute for AI+X.

“Artificial intelligence is one of the great frontiers in the innovation economy. With young companies, our students, and our faculty working together, Tampa is growing to become a promising center of diverse skills and new perspectives that will shape AI’s future,” Sarkar said. 

TheIncLab is the second company that took part in Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity program over the summer to set down roots locally. JustProtect, a secure-tech company, relocated its headquarters from New York to Tampa last year.

TheIncLab’s demo space at The Undercroft

“I am proud that our TechDiversity program, funded by the Nielsen Foundation, continues to not only provide critical support to talented startup teams, especially those with diverse founders like Adriana, but also helps to highlight the burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists in our region today,” said Linda Olson, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Wave.

TheIncLab is the fifth company to open an office at The Undercroft. The location provides secure, dedicated network access, tailored resources and focused programming.

“Their arrival in Ybor is evidence of the momentum the cybersecurity and defense communities have achieved in the Tampa Bay region in attracting outside companies and retaining startups and local talent through the creation of high wage jobs, which attract diverse talent nationally,” said Adam Sheffield, CEO of The Undercoft.

Related story: The Undercroft, cybersecurity hub, opens at ‘ground zero’ in Ybor

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