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Tech superstar named board chairman at business incubator

Brian Hartz

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Brian Murphy, founder and CEO of ReliaQuest.

As the recently appointed chairman of the board at Embarc Collective, a Tampa-based business incubator, ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy has big shoes to fill. Namely, those of Jeff Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lighting owner and uber-entrepreneur who’s transforming the Tampa skyline with his Water Street Tampa project.

Murphy, in an interview with the Catalyst, said Vinik will remain involved with Embarc Collective as vice chairman of the board, and that he’s looking forward to collaborating with him and the incubator’s CEO, Lakshmi Shenoy, as a leadership triumvirate, of sorts.

“I don’t really look at us as vice chair and chair, but more of a team,” Murphy said. “We both share a really big vision and obviously there are few people with as big of a vision as Jeff. I love being around him for that reason and feeding off that.”

He added, “There a lot of people who have big vision, but not many people press ‘play’ and actually go and build on it. That’s definitely something that was very compelling to me. We both share that vision and we’re both willing to put the work in, and we have a leader in Lakshmi who is world-class and one of the best CEOs I’ve ever been around.”

Murphy is no stranger to Embarc Collective. He joined the board in 2020 and is also a member of the organization’s Founders Circle, a group of Tampa’s top business leaders who have become Embarc Collective board members and are committed to tracking the startup hub’s success. He told the Catalyst that he’s looking forward to sharing the hard-won entrepreneurial wisdom that has helped him build ReliaQuest into one of the region’s most successful tech firms.

Since it was founded by Murphy in the late 2000s, ReliaQuest has grown to 600 employees in five locations around the world and raised $330 million in funding from leading private equity firms KKR and FTV Capital. The company’s clientele includes household names such as American Eagle, Campbell Soup Co. and St. Jude’s Research Hospital.

“I’m passionate about giving people help and support and resources that were not available to me as I was starting ReliaQuest,” Murphy said.

Embarc Collective, he added, “has paid consultants who have domain-specific expertise. So, take product development — being able to just sit down and talk with somebody about what you’re building and how to get there faster. Or maybe I need some help around how we’re thinking about demand generation or how we’re thinking about software lifecycle or how we’re thinking about release management. There are real resources right there that are committed to help — the members of the collective, not volunteers.”

Embarc Collective has about 70 members, Murphy said, including highly successful startups such as Cope Notes, TrustLayer, LeaseCake, FabStayz, Stemrad, Ideal Agent, IMMERTEC, Peerfit and Knack. The organization works with companies in Tampa Bay as well as across the state, and increasing its reach and influence is one of Murphy’s goals as chairman.

“People would be surprised to know that Embarc has member companies in Orlando and down in South Florida,” he said. “I want to make sure that people are aware of the capability and the support system that exists here. My big vision is to continue to connect the state. It seems like a big surface area for us. I think we can really help sideline to sideline and expand the reach and find more founders. I think there are people out there with great ideas that are in the trenches growing companies, and they need to know that there’s help here.”

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