Two leaders in Tampa Bay’s technology sector took the stage as Tampa Bay Tech celebrated companies and individuals who are making a difference in the industry.
Tom Wallace, managing partner of Florida Funders, received the Community Leadership and Dedication award for his work to elevate the importance of technology in the Florida economy.
Wallace was one of the 13 individuals and companies honored at the Friday night ceremony, the 15th annual awards program from Tampa Bay Tech, Florida’s largest technology council. Nielsen, a market research and data analytics firm with a major office in Oldsmar, was a big winner, getting three of the awards.
Wallace is the “godfather” of technology in Tampa Bay, said Tony DiBenedetto, the former chairman and CEO of software and services company Tribridge, which sold last year for $152 million.
“Every movement needs pioneers,” DiBenedetto said in introducing Wallace. “Tom was talking about the future of technology at a time when the state was focused on agriculture and tourism.”
Wallace has built at least four local tech companies, including Red Vector, now part of Vector Solutions, a $62 million eLearning company that has a deal to be acquired by Golden Gate Capital, one of the most active software investors in the world.
His current endeavor, Florida Funders, is a hybrid of a venture capital fund and crowd-funding platform that invests in early-stage technology companies in Florida. Florida Funders has invested more than $10 million in 26 companies, according to the most recent information on its website.
When he started working in Tampa more than two decades ago, the area’s support for technology was much different than today, Wallace said.
“At the time, we had no incubators, no accelerators, and the chambers were focused on recruiting Fortune 500 firms,” he said. While that focus has met with limited success, the tech sector has flourished. “It’s not moving companies here that will make a difference. It’s building companies here.”
Nielsen (NYSE: NLSN), with its Global Technology and Information Center in Oldsmar, was named Technology Company of the Year, and Arun Ramaswamy, chief engineer at Nielsen, was named Technology Executive of the Year. Nielsen also received the Industry/Academic Partnership of the Year award, for its work with the University of Florida.
The smart packaging team at Jabil (NYSE: JBL), a St. Petersburg-based manufacturing services company, won the Technology Innovation Team of the Year, and Eric Kerin, senior IT manager for incubation and developer services, was named Technology Leader of the Year.
Ashlee Lane, managing director at Accenture, was named Emerging Technology Leader of the Year.
Other award winners were:
Emerging Technology Company: assessURhealth
Excellence in Service: Flexential
Workplace Culture: AutoLoop
Technology Project: Geographic Solutions
Meetup: Tampa Bay User Experience Group
Student Workforce Initiative: Tech Data, summer internship program
Click here to read more about the award winners.