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Demo Day: Tampa Bay Wave startups make their pitches Wednesday

Megan Holmes

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The current Tampa Bay Wave TechDiversity cohort on a tour of St. Pete's entrepreneurial scene in July.

Wednesday morning, the Tampa Bay Wave TechDiversity accelerator cohort will take the stage once again. This week’s Demo Day is an exclusive opportunity for the cohort to pitch their businesses to investors both local and national, as well as supporters of the Tampa Bay tech and startup scene. The event, held at the University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS), will feature Tampa Bay Wave’s first TechDiversity cohort, focused on businesses that are minority, female, veteran or LGBT owned.

The official TechDiversity accelerator programming ends Tuesday, and the program caps off with the Demo Day on Wednesday. Many of the cohort’s companies are in high growth verticals, such as health tech, cybersecurity, indie gaming and more.

“The Tampa Bay Wave TechDiversity Demo Day is an exclusive opportunity to see our recent accelerator cohort in action,” says Shane Needham, Director of Communications at Tampa Bay Wave. “After the 90-day program that kicked off in May, our community will have the opportunity to see how they’ve grown their business and moved another step toward success. 

“We will see pitches from the TechDiversity companies and hear about how they have evolved their business, engaged their customers and what is next as they seek to continue the momentum gained as part of the TechDiversity accelerator,” says Needham.

Shuchi Vyas, founder of GuestBox

Despite the end of official cohort programming with the Wave, “There’s no such thing as ‘finishing’ the program,” says GuestBox‘s Shuchi Vyas. “Tampa Bay Wave wants you to stay involved – and as the first TechDiversity cohort, I think there will be a lot of great opportunities to stay involved in the programming and community connections.”

For some, this won’t be the first time they’re pitching to a crowd. Many of the cohort members have pitched at multiple startup competitions, been part of other accelerators, or participated in the Wave’s sold-out St. Pete Pitch Night at Station House. “We’re all in different stages,” says Vyas. “For some, it’s the first time that they’re pitching to such a large audience, others have pitched dozens of times. We have an array.”

For SynsorMed, a health tech company focused on managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), previous pitches were helpful in communicating to a new audience. “The St Pete event was key in helping us better communicate our value to a non-healthcare audience,” says Theo Harvey, co-founder of SynsorMed. “Typically most healthcare-focused audiences understand the value our solution offers to hospitals in preventing costly readmissions, so we needed to focus our messaging on the higher story for all audiences.”

For other companies, every pitch is a learning experience. “I’m always applying to different programs and opportunities, so I’m always pitching,” says Vyas. “Every pitch just gets better, you have more to add to the story, edits to make, highlights to share.”

Project MQ’s founders, twins Marcus and Malcolm Howard.

Each company in the cohort is also at a different investment stage. Some are just starting out and not yet looking for outside investment, others are deep into the development of their business and looking to gather capital to help them launch.

“I’m definitely looking for some strategic investor interest,” Vyas says. “Hopefully the Demo Day will open up some conversations for helping me grow the company. It would be great to meet new potential investors and partners.”

“I’m most excited for seeing all of the other startup’s pitches,” says Marcus Howard, co-founder of ProjectMQ. “The entire cohort is full of stellar ideas, and I’ve only seen their 60-second pitches at the kickoff press conference three months ago.”

“Now, I’ll get to better understand the opportunities that they each have, so I can figure how to help them reach their goals.”

That feeling of camaraderie and community may seem counter to the dog-eat-dog startup world, but Howard isn’t alone in feeling it. “I’ve been in one other accelerator,” says Vyas. “This has a lot more personal attention, a lot more feeling of community, with just 10 companies in the cohort.”

The cohort members are feeling prepared and excited for Demo Day, thanks to strong preparation from Wave staff. “The Tampa Bay Wave are experts at coaching. They help you be precise, and highlight the most important parts that the audience will resonate with,” explained Vyas.

“The Wave is maximizing the experience all the way to the end,” says Howard.  “I had personalized pitch coaching this morning, and the cohort’s been in mind-meld session all afternoon.”

“We are incredibly excited to see the remarkable number of investors that will be joining us for this event,” says Needham. “We are eager to see how this event will make connections that support these companies in their journey toward breakout success.”

Interested in checking out Tampa Bay Wave’s Demo Day? Find event details and tickets here.

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