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Tampa Bay Innovation Center launches accelerator

Margie Manning

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Tonya Elmore is president and CEO of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

St. Petersburg is getting a new accelerator program for young technology companies.

The Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a business incubator and coworking center, today announced its Tampa Bay Entrepreneurship and Investment Challenge, a 12-week program focused on preparing technology ventures to scale their companies.

Graduates of the program will have a chance to present to investors, potential partners and customers, and community leaders in early January.

However, the program goes well beyond preparing for a pitch, marketing or raising money, said Chris Paradies, chairman of the board of Tampa Bay Innovation Center and president of Paradies Law.

“We prepare your company not to just ‘look ready’ but to ‘be ready’ to take an investment and hit the ground running and execute your plan,” Paradise said in a news release. “Our program helps CEOs develop into leaders that can rapidly execute plans, adjust when appropriate and gives them the experience to know how to navigate obstacles that derail promising startups.”

Ida Covi

Harvard Business Review has reported that startups that are accepted into accelerators outperform their counterparts, said Ida Covi, a member of the accelerator committee and CEO of iRewild, a thought leadership institute in Tampa. “The Innovation Center’s highly focused accelerator program provides invaluable resources and advantages to help drive a business venture’s growth, funding potential and future,” Covi said.

There are lots of good programs in the Tampa-St. Pete area, said Tonya Elmore, president and CEO of Tampa Bay Innovation Center. “Our accelerator program will complement those efforts, but our approach is focused on founders and founder wellness,” Elmore said.

The program includes mentorship by serial entrepreneurs who have had successful exits. It’s open to participants across the country and provided free of charge, with no equity required. The city of St. Petersburg has provided the Innovation Center with a $50,000 grant that helps fund the accelerator and other programs, while Pinellas County also provides ongoing funding to the Innovation Center for programming. Other sponsors of the new accelerator program include the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, Seedfunders and PitchLyst, a St. Pete Catalyst product focused on startups. Florida Blue is a community partner.

The accelerator includes a series of one-day to three-day workshops from Oct. 24 through Jan. 13, with up to 10 companies per workshop. The Challenge Event will be the week of Jan. 6.

To qualify, applicants must have at least two or more team members at a scalable tech venture and a post-minimal viable product or proof of concept. Financial criteria includes companies that are pre-seed, seed or post-seed to Series A funding with less than $2 million capital.

Applications are being accept until Oct. 13. Apply here.

The Tampa Bay Innovation Center last year moved to 501 1st Ave. N. in St. Petersburg, taking 20,000 square feet on two floors of a building owned by Pinellas County. The county recently received a $7.5 million federal grant to build a 45,000-square-foot, two-story incubator, operated by the Innovation Center, on land owned by the city of St. Petersburg in the Innovation District. The federal grant will be matched with local funds of $4.5 million.

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