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Embarc Collective’s next moves

Margie Manning

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Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO, Embarc Collective, at a fireside chat at the Dreamit-Bisnow Innovation Summit

Next week will be a big one for Embarc Collective, the Jeff Vinik-backed initiative to elevate the startup community in the Tampa area.

The nonprofit organization will begin taking applications for memberships. It also will unveil renderings that provide a first look at the design of Embarc’s 32,000-square-foot facility.

Embarc aims to bring together entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other funders, and academic resources in one space.

“Having that physical space is interesting,” said Lakshmi Shenoy, Embarc CEO, speaking at a fireside chat at the Dreamit-Bisnow Innovation Summit in Tampa.

Tampa Bay is unique because of so many important pockets of communities, such as downtown Tampa, downtown St. Petersburg, Westshore, Clearwater and Sarasota, she said.

“It is a little bit of an experiment to see if a physical space, a physical central landing zone, will create the kind of community we want.”

Embarc will be located at 802 E. Whiting St. and will combine the former District 3 Arts and Events venue with adjacent office-configured townhomes. Located on the eastern edge of downtown Tampa, the building will change the look of the area, she said. “We’re creating a visually interesting destination  for the community and activating another part of the community.”

Embarc will not have the open-space design that’s been popular in offices in recent years. “Open configurations are really tough if you actually want to do work,” Shenoy said.

Instead, there will be “neighborhoods” of companies, with private spaces that surround a smaller shared area.

“This creates serendipitous run-ins between companies,” Shenoy said. “You’ll be amazed when you create these communities to see what happens when they latch on and make better solutions when they work together.”

Shenoy does not want the neighborhoods to be separated by industry verticals.

“Lateral learning is amazing. When you can connect companies in different verticals and they see how different solutions apply to their perspective turfs, that’s where the magic happens,” she said.

There’s a public café and a library. A 275-person event space will be open to the community as long as the topics discussed focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. Training rooms will have a similar focus, such as development schools or analytics training.

Tech startup teams can apply for membership beginning Nov. 13. Specific criteria will be in the online application, but Shenoy outlined some of what Embarc is looking for.

  • Early stage technology startups
  • Companies that are building a product versus selling services
  • Companies do not need to have revenue to apply but need to have a clear path to revenue
  • Driven and focused founders

“This is not a place to hang. It’s a place to work. We want to create that community so we can inspire each other, to push each other, so that we are becoming the success stories that Tampa Bay wants,” Shenoy said.

There is a nominal membership fee, about 50 percent of the total amount of services Embarc invests in each company. Those services include coaching, an in-house recruiter to help find talent, an in-house development shop, and access to customers and capital.

A survey by Embarc found that founders are most interested in customers, workers and money. Embarc has been building partnerships with those stakeholders, both locally and nationally, Shenoy said. She expects to release more details about those partnerships when Embarc is closer to launching in early 2019.

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