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Clearwater, FL – Vacation Town or Tech Startup Haven?

Steve Allen

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What do you see when you think about Clearwater, Florida?

Google the city, and you’ll see nothing but beaches in the image results. Sure, the beaches are award-winning, but Clearwater locals know that there’s a lot more going on beneath the sandy, sun-kissed surface.

Clearwater is also home to a number of established and growing tech companies, including Tech Data and KnowBe4. The Tampa Bay Region, including Clearwater and St. Petersburg, is climbing the ranks as a desirable place for jobseekers and entrepreneurs. In fact, the area has been ranked as:

• 2nd to only Silicon Valley for tech entrepreneurs
• 4th fastest growing job market in the US
• #1 city for gaining the most residents in 2016
• 3rd most popular destination for Millennials (boldbusiness)

How is Clearwater managing to draw in and sustain all of this talent? The answer may partly come down to a plan that Clearwater residents have recently voted to move forward with. Imagine Clearwater is a comprehensive plan geared toward revitalizing the downtown waterfront and spurring the downtown economy.

So far, the most visible change to the downtown area is The Nolen, a sprawling apartment complex that celebrated its grand opening in November 2017. The changes continue to roll out in the form of new restaurants and shops, including Clear Sky on Cleveland.

Downtown Clearwater’s facelift is doing its job to bring in more residents and businesses. There’s also something to be said for peer-to-peer support. Three years ago, we opened up a business incubator called TAFFIE (Tampa Arts Facility for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) here at the DocuPhase headquarters.

The TAFFIE program (now named Florida Business Incubator) was designed to allow entrepreneurs to rent a cubicle or to use a shared workspace in a supportive, educational environment where they were provided with access to advanced equipment like a 3D printer and a metal lathe – a lot more than the average entrepreneur would have access to in a home office, or working out of a Starbucks.

We’re seeing this community rise up around us – a supportive environment for business startups and tech environments. Consider KnowBe4, a Clearwater-based company that is the world’s largest security awareness and simulated phishing platform, and the fastest-growing vendor in their space. Due to this explosive growth, which began around 2016, their outdated sales order process became problematic. The company found themselves looking for a solution to this growing pain.

Any guesses as to where they found the technology to solve their biggest process challenge? If you guessed Clearwater, Florida, you guessed right. They didn’t have to go far to find DocuPhase, a software vendor that was able to solve the problem with automated workflows, web forms, and an integration with SalesForce. What’s more, the relationship between the two companies has become reciprocal, as DocuPhase is also one of KnowBe4’s security customers.

What does all of this mean for Clearwater, Florida? No one is claiming that Clearwater is no longer a vacation town. The question is simply this: Could Clearwater also be a growing tech haven?

It’s hard to deny when the evidence is stacked up – established tech industry giants, downtown’s rejuvenation, a local business incubator and a building network of tech companies using their strengths to support each other.

When you take a look beneath the surface, you can see it.

The tech community is there, and it’s growing.

DocuPhase provides software and services for Enterprise Automation. It is a platform that includes everything an organization needs to execute on their Digital Transformation, Process Improvement and Growth strategies.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Joy Randels

    July 16, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    This is a nice post about part of the “region”. Clearwater has several growing tech companies and companies that provide services, training, or support for tech programs. Pinellas County is also home to companies like Triad, Intrinio, Jabil, ISC2, etc. I do think it is important to note that we often forget the area extends beyond Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and it is when we take a holistic view of the region we get a true picture of what the area has to offer.

  2. Sawyer Frank

    July 20, 2018 at 10:14 am

    I am interested to see the source of these statistics. “2nd to only Silicon Valley for tech entrepreneurs” seems a bit of a stretch. I live in Denver, CO and would be stunned if that is true.

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