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Ten local nonprofits to take the stage for Thursday’s SVP Fast Pitch

Megan Holmes



Pitch competitions are a staple of the startup world. Accelerators across the country prepare entrepreneurs to take the stage and share their ideas – in three minutes or less – with a room full of captivated community members, mentors and possible investors.

But what might a pitch night look like if the startups were replaced with nonprofits? What if, instead of relying grant funding with its many strings attached, nonprofits functioned more like startups? What if, for six weeks (and hopefully beyond) nonprofits laid archaic bureaucracies and practices to the wayside and did something different, something nimble.

In its second year, Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay Fast Pitch seeks to help nonprofits do just that. After six weeks of accelerated training and refinement, 10 organizations will present their social enterprise ideas at the Palladium in St. Petersburg Thursday night.

The night is sure to be a who’s who of Tampa Bay’s nonprofit community, supporting the 10 cohort organizations the Catalyst has introduced you to over the past month, via our Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch video series.

SailFuture: Innovative Child Welfare Programs for Teens from St. Pete Catalyst on Vimeo.

The cohort includes: SailFuture; Indi-Ed; Autism Shifts; Pinellas County Urban League; CEED; Sewn ApartShepherd’s Village; Louise Graham Regeneration Center; The Portico; and Great Explorations.

The Fast Pitch competition, known asShark Tank for social entrepreneurs,” is a celebration of entrepreneurial problem solving, innovation, and community.

Tickets are going fast! Readers and friends of the Catalyst can purchase half-price tickets with our pre-applied “CATALYST” discount code here.

The 2018 SVP Fast Pitch judge panel is comprised of seasoned professionals, entrepreneurs and public officials from the local community. Meet them below.

 Gentry Byrnes – Chief Fiduciary Officer, Raymond James Trust

Gentry Byrnes joined Raymond James Trust in 2013 as the Chief Fiduciary Officer. She is responsible for overseeing a team of Trust, Real Estate and Specialty Assets Officers and focusing on fiduciary issues for all assets under management. Previously Gentry worked with Wells Fargo where she was the Senior Regional Trust Manager responsible for all compliance, risk management and fiduciary issues for high net worth clients. Prior to Wells Fargo, Gentry was a Trust Team Leader for Bank of America where she worked with clients on estate planning goals. Gentry has also worked for the law firm of Fisher and Sauls, P.A. where her practice included estate and trust administration and elder law.

Lakshmi Shenoy – CEO Embarc Collective

Lakshmi Shenoy is a recent transplant to Florida and the Tampa-St. Pete region and is the CEO of Embarc Collective. Before moving to Tampa, Lakshmi was in Chicago and served as the Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at 1871, the #1 university-affiliated business incubator in the world. Prior to 1871, Lakshmi focused on growth strategies for a variety of businesses through her work at Prophet Brand Strategy, Time Inc., Procter & Gamble and Leo Burnett. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from the University of Chicago and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Lakshmi was recognized as one of 20 Rising Brand Stars by AdAge in 2017.


Joe Hamilton – Publisher, St. Pete Catalyst

Joe first entered the startup world with Steve Case’s Revolution Money (prior to AMEX’s $350M purchase of the company). There he built the card fulfillment, statement, customer service and communication infrastructure for the innovative credit card company.

His next start-up, SavvyCard, raised over 2 million dollars. Joe connected with the company as an investor first and later joined as COO and board member. 

Joe recently founded the online daily news site  St. Pete Catalyst under the umbrella of the St. Petersburg Group which works with many stakeholders in the area. 

Nikki Gaskin-Capehart – Director of Urban Affairs, City of St. Petersburg

Nikki was appointed by Mayor Rick Kriseman of the City of St. Petersburg to serve as the Director of Urban Affairs. She focuses on investing in the disenfranchised residents of St. Petersburg through opportunity creation, nurturing neighborhoods and families, connecting through cultural affairs and being a catalyst for commerce. Prior to her position with the City of St. Petersburg, Deputy District Director for Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Healthier Pinellas, Outreach Director for Congressman Jim Davis, owner of Sanaa’ Systems Inc., and Assistant Vice President of Community Development Banking for AmSouth Bank.

Rochelle Friedman Walk – Managing Partner Aegis Law

Rochelle Friedman Walk, Esq. is an experienced, thoughtful and strategic attorney, business executive and neutral mediator. She is known for her negotiating skills and the ability to bring parties together in win-win, creative solutions. She offers a practical and business-oriented approach to the practice of law. Her background in business enables her to relate well to clients and to quickly define the work and potential solutions. She has been a court-appointed receiver, arbitrator and mediator and currently serves as the Managing Partner – Tampa for Aegis Law.

In her more than 30 years of business and legal experience, she has served as the chief restructuring officer, chief administrative officer, chief legal officer and Business Unit Manager to several national and multi-national business organizations. As an attorney, she has represented clients in a wide range of legal transactions including complex commercial, e-commerce, technology, real estate, financial restructuring and employment matters. Her practice includes advising not for profit organizations, including social welfare and trade associations on a variety of business matters.

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