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Innovation, military presence lead two Wave TechDiversity companies to establish local offices

Margie Manning

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Tampa Bay Wave TechDiversity Pitch Night

Expect to see a lot more of two companies that are currently participating in Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity accelerator.

JustProtect, a secure-tech company currently based in New York, has committed to moving its headquarters to Tampa Bay in August. TheIncLab, which specializes in human-centered artificial intelligence and is based near Washington, D.C., is looking for space locally to open a satellite office.

Bringing new technology companies and skilled workers to the area is in keeping with Tampa Bay Wave’s mission, which is to create opportunity and foster prosperity for the area.

Vikas Bhatia, CEO, JustProtect

The collaborative business community, lower real estate costs, available talent and quality of life in the Tampa-St. Pete area all played a role in the decision to relocate JustProtect, said Vikas Bhatia, CEO.

He cited conversations this week at Tampa Bay Wave with mentors from large enterprises who offered to help the company and were open to new ideas and approaches.

“There’s a spirit of innovation that’s being fostered and is resonating in the region,” he said.

JustProtect started out of as a cybersecurity firm and pivoted. It now is a regulatory compliance company, with a software-as-a-service platform that simplifies the distribution and response to compliance assessments and audits. The automation, simplicity and use of industrial psychology removes bias and can deliver assessments in a fraction of the time and cost compared to traditional audits, the company said.

Bhatia is eager to partner and network with local cybersecurity firms. He also wants to work with other B2B startups here.

“In order for those organizations to work with larger companies, they need to demonstrate a certain level of compliance. We have a fremium offering – we don’t charge for it – for them to be more compliant and to be able sell quicker,” he said. “So the benefit is not all on us. We are able to help those B2B startups become more competitive as they seek new clients.”

The company was part of the DreamIt SecureTech cohort. Bhatia visited here last fall and again in the spring for TiEcon Florida 2019.

JustProtect, with more than $10,000 in recurring monthly revenue, has about a team of 10, and recently brought on its first recruit from the University of Tampa. The company is taking space in the Embarc Collective in downtown Tampa, and until that is completed will work out of Industrious, the coworking space Embarc currently occupies.

Embarc, Wave and TiE have been “tremendous helps,” Bhatia said.

Military draw

When Bhatia was still deciding whether to move the company, he attended the Synapse Summit. One of the slides he saw showed the local of military bases in the area.

Adriana Avakina, CEO, TheIncLab

“My first three hires at my old firm were  ex-Army, Air Force and Coast Guard guys, because of the mindset. There’s a regulation mindset, there’s a compliance mindset and there’s a security mindset. So with that much potential talent leaving the Armed Forces, coupled with the number of schools in the area … it started to make more and more sense,” he said.

The local military presence also is a big draw for TheIncLab, said CEO Adriana Avakian.

The four-year-old company creates artificial intelligence systems designed to learn and interact with humans. With $8 million in revenue to date, and a pipeline of $22 million in contracts through 2022, the company has customers in both the commercial and government sectors.

“We’re looking at bringing TheIncLab to Florida. Obviously, we’re very interested in MacDill Air Force Base. SOCOM is a good customer of ours. We want to really invest here and to bring TheIncLab to the St. Pete-Tampa area,” Avakian said.

Avakian spoke at the July 18 Pitch Night for the TechDiversity cohort. It’s the second year for the program, a collaboration between the Nielsen Foundation and  Tampa Bay Wave, a nonprofit that services and houses startup technology firms.

Leaders from 10 of the 11 companies taking part in the TechDiversity accelerator gave short descriptions of their business models, their teams and their financials during the Pitch Night at Red Mesa Cantina in St. Petersburg. JustProtect’s Bhatia was not able to attend.

The St. Pete Catalyst has been featuring the companies in a series of video reports and will have a video recording of Pitch Night available in a few days.

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