Connect with us


Tech festival ‘powers up’ St. Pete

Mark Parker



A 2022 poweredUP attendee explores the metaverse. Tampa Bay Tech's signature annual event returns to the Mahaffey Theater May 17. Photos provided.

St. Peterburg is a critical part of the region’s burgeoning technology scene, yet many of the industry’s premier conferences and festivals occur on the other side of Tampa Bay.

One significant exception is Tampa Bay Tech’s annual poweredUP event, which returns to the Sunshine City’s downtown waterfront Wednesday, May 17. The Mahaffey Theater will host a full day of programming starting at 11 a.m. with a live, virtual “capture the flag” competition and concluding at 6 p.m. after a networking happy hour.

In between are nine panels featuring tech experts representing various industries. This year’s free festival is focused on the latest trends in artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, web3 and the metaverse, and highlighting the area’s innovative talent.

Meghan O’Keefe, executive director of Tampa Bay Tech, noted that poweredUP is the organization’s signature annual summit and a way to showcase the community’s work to the public.

“It’s one of the bigger events – and maybe the biggest tech gathering in St. Pete,” O’Keefe said. “We’re able to bring in these notable speakers and have great content, and it’s a way for people to just come in and really engage and learn.”

Tampa Bay Tech is a nonprofit council that has united the local industry for 22 years. Its mission is to foster a “radically connected, flourishing tech hub” and equitably increase opportunities.

The organization boasts over 150 member companies representing more than 110,000 employees. O’Keefe said the “laid back” festival allows that community and the public to collaborate and creates excitement for “tangible things that they can take back with them to their teams, departments and projects.”

Meghan O’Keefe, executive director of Tampa Bay Tech.

“From students to CEOs, it’s people of all different tech backgrounds,” she added. “It’s one of the few chances that all these people have to get together in one place and learn and network.”

O’Keefe noted how OpenAI’s large language model, ChatGPT, has stoked public interest in artificial intelligence. Joseph Cortese, a cybersecurity expert with A-LIGN, will discuss the chatbot’s benefits and risks.

O’Keefe also wants to explore potential use cases in other industries. A group of medical professionals from Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, Tampa General Hospital and Moffit Cancer Center will lead a panel on the opportunities and challenges presented by utilizing AI in health care.

In addition, representatives from the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the PGA Tour and Vinik Sports Group will explain how technology intersects with sports. O’Keefe said the goal is to highlight how emerging tech “can be utilized in all different industries – and in different ways.”

The Capture the Flag competition is an interactive cybersecurity activity. Hack The Box (HTB) officials will plant hidden “flags” in purposefully vulnerable programs and websites, and registered attendees will race to discover the most items.

Another highlight for O’Keefe is gleaning insight from poweredUP’s keynote speaker, Sandy Carter. She is the CEO of Unstoppable Domains, a San Francisco-based company that connects Web2 – the legacy internet – with Web3 through blockchain-enabled web addresses.

Her presentation’s title is “The Metaverse Mindset of Web3, AI & the Future of Business.” O’Keefe called it “an overview of everything that’s going on right now.”

Carter will explain how the new tech fosters future online identities and what that means for companies. According to her website, CNN named Carter one of its Top 10 Most Powerful Women in Tech.

“I think it’s pretty awesome to get her on stage, to get her in front of the tech community in Tampa Bay,” O’Keefe said. “I think she’ll be a great way to open up the programming.”

“GeekRow” at last year’s poweredUP festival.

Cityverse, Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton’s tech-focused startup civic platform, will join an extensive list of companies on poweredUP’s “GeekRow.” Attendees can register for an exclusive NFT drop, and O’Keefe called it “a really cool design that encompasses all aspects of the different programming throughout the day.”

Whether the free digital souvenir is someone’s first NFT or the latest in a collection, she said, “It’s a cool thing that we’re happy Joe is partnering and helping us with.”

In addition to Cityverse, GeekRow sponsors include Google, SoftServe, Coinflip, Accusoft, RevStar, CSI Companies, DGR Systems, Okta, Ascendion, Geographic Solutions, Abacode and Amazon Web Services (AWS). O’Keefe said company representatives would give away merchandise throughout the day, and a contingent of food trucks would park outside the Mahaffey Theater during lunch hours.

She relayed that local founders launch new companies in the area daily, and entrepreneurs continue relocating to St. Petersburg. O’Keefe said that underscores the need to highlight the entire region, which is poweredUP’s purpose.

“There’s more that’s needed out there; it doesn’t have to be just in Tampa anymore,” she added. “So, it’s great to have it in St. Pete, and hopefully, we can continue expanding and creating more events regionally for everybody.”

For more information on poweredUP, visit the website here.


Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us:

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.