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Startup City: Innovation flourishes in a community with a growth mindset

Michelle Waite



Michelle Waite is the VP of Marketing at Florida Funders, a locally-based venture capital firm and angel investor network who enables tech and tech-enabled startups to thrive through monetary and business-intellectual capital. Photo provided.

We are all startups. Entrepreneurs of our own lives who are always evolving. Never finished. Whether you’re a businessperson, government official, artist, writer, volunteer, mom, dad, grandparent or all of the above … in order to stay relevant, we must adapt and transform. This evolution is not always easy, which is why a foundation of support, authenticity and a growth mindset is key. On a much broader level, this also holds true for our ever-progressing city and region.

Permanent Beta

In the book The Startup of You written by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, the author espouses the idea of “permanent beta.”  Beta, of course, came into existence as the second letter of the Greek alphabet. At some point, the technology sector adopted the term for its own. Today, beta is more widely known as the process of introducing a test version of a product to real customers in their real environments to learn and improve upon future versions.

I love this idea and mindset of permanent beta. It reminds us that there is always opportunity for growth, learning, and continuous improvement to do things in new and better ways. It’s also the reason I have so much admiration for startup founders solving real problems with innovation and a whole lot of grit and determination.

Why a Growth Mindset?

The question remains for each of us and for our city: how can we create an environment that nurtures and excels the rate of continuous improvement and innovation, while keeping the core essence and goodness of who we are? 

There are a number of components to this that will be explored in this series, through story, over the following months. But, I believe that one very important ingredient is a supportive community with a growth mindset.

Let’s first define the concept of “growth mindset” which was coined by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. 

According to Dweck, “Important achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. Plus allies in learning.” It’s the “allies-in-learning” that take it to a community level.

A Story of Allies-in-Learning

I discovered the power of a community that fully embraced this growth mindset while I was living and working in Singapore. After many years in a stressful but fulfilling career, I had the rare and much needed opportunity to take a sabbatical. I knew I wanted something different, but not quite sure what. 

During that break in 2012, I met my now lifelong friend Carol on a serendipitous hike in the jungle, organized by a mutual friend. She and I shared our stories, aspirations and ideas for businesses and nonprofits that we felt solved important problems in the world. It was during that hike that Carol shared an idea that we would both soon implement. A reinvention group was born, eventually called simply the Re-Group. 

We brought together a group of like-minded people who met weekly to learn, discuss and hold each other accountable to pursuing our respective “next,” whatever that might be – next passion, purpose, identity or occupation. 

We used a blend of “Lean-In” exercises, the “Artist’s Way” process, guest speakers (on topics like social media and entrepreneurship), and assessment tools (MBTI and life mapping). 

Regardless of the tools used, it was the overarching “growth mindset” of each of us individually and as a group that enabled us to pursue opportunities that we might not have without this support. It was here alongside my “allies in learning” that I took the leap into the world of investing in and working with technology startups, and have never looked back.

A Great Start Locally

In our local community, we have several organizations that serve the role of “allies-in-learning” for startup founders. 

This includes the Tampa Bay Innovation Center based in St. Petersburg, which has long supported the acceleration of entrepreneurial success by connecting nascent startups with capital and coaching. After collaborating with Ark Investment Management recently, together they are creating a state of the art facility that will include a 200 person event center, an innovation lab for prototyping, an AR/VR studio, two state-of-the-art classrooms, conference rooms and coworking space in downtown St. Pete. 

Across the Tampa Bay Area, organizations like Synapse, Tampa Bay Wave and Embarc Collective are also playing a very important role to support and help our local startups grow and thrive.  It has been exciting to see many of these organizations come together and collaborate more recently to help our founders succeed and to address foundational issues like talent and access to capital. These founders are solving important problems and creating jobs. I invite you to learn more about these organizations and reach out to support their efforts in whatever way makes the most sense for you. 

We can do more to support the very important startup ecosystem. Let’s keep a growth mindset alive and thriving in our community. Can you imagine how much more we can do together? 

Startup City will continue to explore topics on what it takes to have a thriving startup ecosystem on a bi-weekly basis through the stories and thoughts of local residents. 

Michelle Waite is the VP of Marketing at Florida Funders, a locally-based venture capital firm and angel investor network who enables tech and tech-enabled startups to thrive through monetary and business-intellectual capital. She has invested in, co-founded and worked for tech startups for the last 10 years. She counts herself lucky everyday to work for and alongside some pretty amazing entrepreneurs. You can follow her on Twitter @michellemwaite or on LinkedIn at

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  1. Avatar

    Lorin Munchick

    March 21, 2022at12:18 pm

    Looking forward to this series! Michelle you are a true inspiration for permanent beta, always in progressional evolution.

  2. Avatar

    Peggy West

    March 21, 2022at5:25 pm

    Great article! Very much looking forward to hearing more from you Michelle!

  3. Avatar

    Angel Torrens

    March 22, 2022at7:12 am

    I have my own Carol Dweck story, but nowhere near as cool as yours. She is definitely an inspiration to people who are searching for knowledge. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Michelle Waite

    Michelle Waite

    March 22, 2022at7:47 am

    Thanks Lorin! Just call me the Carrie Bradshaw of Startups. 😉

  5. Michelle Waite

    Michelle Waite

    March 22, 2022at7:49 am

    Thanks Peggy! I’m really looking forward to writing more…

  6. Michelle Waite

    Michelle Waite

    March 22, 2022at7:51 am

    Thank YOU Angel! Feel free to post your allies-in-learning story here. I would love to hear it!

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