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Tampa Bay Tech honors companies elevating region’s success

Veronica Brezina



Tampa Bay Tech's 20th annual award ceremony at Armature Works in Tampa. All photos by Veronica Brezina.

Tampa Bay’s ascension to being named among the top cities for tech jobs and HQ relocations is largely thanks to the cheerleaders behind business-building organizations and companies promoting the local pipeline of talent. 

Non-profit technology council Tampa Bay Tech recognized such companies and executives during its 20th annual awards event Nov. 10 at the Armature Works venue in Tampa, honoring winners across six award categories. 

Meet the winners: 

Technology Leader of the Year

Awardee: Andrew McIntyre, senior vice president of technology and innovation at Vinik Sports Group: McIntyre oversees the information technology and video production of the group, which is the parent company of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Criteria: A C-level executive who has made a significant impact on their organization and the tech industry.


Abacode COO Rolando Torres. 

Technology Company of the Year

Awardee: Abacode Cybersecurity and Compliance: The company provides a fully managed cybersecurity and compliance platform, seamlessly integrating cyber defense with continuous compliance and third-party risk management.

Criteria: A company that’s committed to advancing the tech community and demonstrates transformational excellence with its team, programs and/or projects.


Samantha Ramos, founder and CEO at Tampa Bay Techies. 

Emerging Technology Leader of the Year

Winner: Samantha Ramos, founder and CEO at Tampa Bay Techies, a 501 (c)(3) organization founded this year with the mission of connecting the area’s entrepreneurs and building networking opportunities. The organization initially started as an IT study group. Ramos currently serves as the Cyber Security Risk Manager at the Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute as a part of its cyber risk management team. 

Criteria: A leader, under 40 years of age, who has made a significant impact on their team, organization and/or in the tech community.


Lazarillo CEO Rene Espinoza. 

Emerging Technology Company of the Year

Winner: Lazarillo: The Chilean-founded startup helps the visually impaired community navigate destinations via an app that provides audio messages and alerts. The company launched a pilot program with the City of Tampa in December 2022. 

Criteria: A company that’s been in business for less than five years and is committed to advancing the tech community. 

An image of The Dream Tapestry by the Dalí Museum.

Technology Project of the Year

Winner: The Dream Tapestry by the Dalí Museum: Late last year, the museum launched an AI experience called the “Dream Tapestry.” Visitors follow prompts and reveal moments from their own recurring dreams. Every few minutes, the computer creates a “painting,” a tapestry weaving together interpretations of several visitor dreams. 

Criteria: A technology project developed and led by an in-house team in Tampa that created regional, national and/or international impact through industry disruption or a transformative effect within the organization.


Michelle Bauer, COO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council. Photo: Tampa Bay Tech.

Community Dedication and Leadership Award

Winner: Michelle Bauer, COO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, overseeing the operations. Bauer first joined the EDC as vice president of marketing and communications in 2014. Bauer was previously president and chief strategist at St. Petersburg-based communications and consulting firm Common Language. Today, she leads investor relations and is responsible for directing and marketing events and communicating with the research team. 


The passing of the torch: TBT’s next Chair 

Moments before the unveiling, Tampa Bay Tech’s board members took the opportunity to announce a major transition as Chair Ande Johnson will step down. 

Outgoing TBT Chair Ande Johnson gives her exit speech at the awards ceremony. Vice Chair Chris Karlo, who will step into her shoes, stands behind Johnson. 

“No matter what I’ve given to this organization, it does not equal what was given to me,” Johnson said onstage. “I have trusted partners, I’ve built lasting relationships with my clients, I found answers to my technology challenges, I found roles for people in my network. I found the smartest people and added them to my team.” 

Johnson is the managing director of digital experience Strategy and the director of operations for Accenture’s global IT organization. Although she is exiting her post and handing the torch to Vice Chair Chris Karlo, she said it’s not a true farewell as she plans to continue to be a prominent advocate of TBT. 

“I have no doubt the platform you [Johnson] put in place, your legacy will endure for the coming years,” Karlo said following Johnson’s speech. “I’ve been fortunate to call you a friend. As you step down as Chair, I have no doubt that you will continue to serve this organization and have your presence felt and keep that commitment to excellence that drives us all forward.” 

Incoming Chair Chris Karlo speaks at the podium. 

Karlo has over two decades of experience in business, strategy and technology consulting, according to his biography. He is currently an equity partner at MercuryWorks, a digital application and professional services firm focused on custom software development and data-driven solutions.  

Karlo said in the incoming year, the board has identified four key pillars to build Tampa’s business framework: Thought leadership, regional magnetism, tech advancement and career development. 

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    November 14, 2023at5:42 pm

    Outstanding performance at all levels. You have sown the seeds of much to come.

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