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Business accelerator welcomes latest cohort of startups

Brian Hartz

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Ken Evans is the managing director of Tampa Bay Innovation Center's business accelerator program. Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

The Tampa Bay Innovation Center in St. Petersburg has selected five startups — four from the Tampa Bay area and one based in Massachusetts — for its latest Accelerator program. 

The companies are BlockSpaces, based in Seminole; Code1 Medical Devices, based in St. Pete; Cope Notes, based in Tampa; RB Technologies, based in Tampa; and WeBoro, based in Canton, Mass. Over the next three months, they’ll receive training and mentoring in customer discovery, investor-readiness and leadership. 

Like previous Accelerator sessions during the coronavirus pandemic, the winter 2021 edition will be conducted virtually, with no in-person meetings. Managing director Ken Evans says the all-remote setup has its advantages. 

“I think it’s beneficial,” he told the Catalyst. “We had some companies that had founders who were in different time zones, different countries, and they were able to participate. There were few benefits of doing this face-to-face when we can have that kind of diversity — and doing it virtually, there’s no commute time, which everyone loved.”

A little less than 30 companies applied for the winter 2021 Accelerator program, according to Evans. “We always get a big batch of people who start the application process, but don’t necessarily finish,” he said.

Tampa Bay Innovation Center sought out firms with a B2B, rather than consumer, focus. Code1 Medical Devices, for example, is a supplier of airway management systems to health care, emergency response and military clients. That company is a graduate of CO.STARTERS, TBIC’s nine-week, pre-incubator program. 

“The selection process is always tough,” Evans explained in a news release announcing the decision. “There were many good applicants, but we focused our effort on the companies that we can assist most through the program and our mentor network.”

According to its website, TBIC has several criteria that Accelerator applicants should meet. They should be scalable, B2B tech ventures with at least two team members and less than $2 million in capital. They should also be willing to commit to meeting with a mentor once per week for 12 weeks. 

“We’re looking for people that have been working on it for a while,” Evans said. “They’re well beyond the idea stage — they’ve actually put some of their own time and treasure into figuring things out, but not necessarily people that are so far along that they’re just trying to do it for a PR win or trying to raise capital.” 

Even companies that feel they’re farther along in their development from the resources of TBIC and its Accelerator program, which concludes with a showcase event that will see participants present pitches to an audience of investors, community leaders, media and potential business partners/customers.  

Accelerator participants, Evans said, “benefit greatly from what I’ll call a ‘bootcamp’ mentality — we’re all going to do some wind sprints to grow together. I don’t care if you’re the fastest, I don’t care if you’re the slowest … we’re going to go through these exercises together, because I guarantee you will learn something about your users and about your industry that you did not know.”

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