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Women in tech, entrepreneurship have a new resource

Mark Parker



Raechel Canipe (fourth from right), served as president for the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce's Emerging Leaders program. She is now funneling her career experience into Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship. Photos provided.

Female founders have a tough time raising money; Forbes reported that women-led startups received just 2.3% of venture capital funding in 2020.

Raechel Canipe, director of community engagement for Synapse Florida, is familiar with the disheartening statistics. So she became a founder herself, to help make a difference.

Canipe publicly announced the launch of her new organization, Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship (WTE), just before Christmas. She calls the venture a “labor of love” and hopes it becomes a critical resource for burgeoning businesswomen throughout Tampa Bay.

“At every level, there is a problem with funding,” said Canipe. “I do feel there is a definite need for an organization like this. Not just in the sense that women need to stick together but in the sense that there are so many wonderful organizations … seeking to resource people to have successful careers in tech or to pursue funding to accelerate and incubate businesses.”

The group encompasses women in technology, entrepreneurship, economic development and industry support organizations. The objective, explained Canipe, is to provide much-needed resources such as peer mentorships, curated introductions to area leaders and educational programming.

She started organizing small meetings in the fall, and by the fourth event in December, Canipe felt WTE had enough momentum for a digital launch. She will now grow its network and resources beyond grassroots organizing and “shoulder taps.”

Raechel Canipe (second from left), also the director of community engagement for Synapse Florida, at one of the first WTE meetings.

Based in Tampa Bay, Canipe hopes to expand WTE throughout the state in the coming year. She stressed the importance of members molding the organization for other members and said they would select volunteer advocates in other regions to further its impact.

“To help carry out the programming and bring in-person connection opportunities to other markets with a density of women in tech,” added Canipe. “Like Orlando, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.”

There are no membership dues for WTE, as Canipe remembers what it was like when she started her career. She recalled how recommended professional organizations charged up to $500 for participation, something “certainly out of the question” when struggling to pay bills.

Canipe said she is bootstrapping WTE in a “resourceful and scrappy” manner. Legal counsel will help her decide if she should register as a nonprofit or continue operating the organization as a labor of love in her spare time, with no money changing hands.

Synapse is a Tampa-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and connecting Florida’s innovators with investors, policymakers and other stakeholders. As the nonprofit’s community engagement director, Canipe spends her days interacting with tech professionals and has watched the industry flourish.

“It’s important to me that everyone has a seat at that table,” she said, “And I think that is also a benefit to businesses.”

She believes WTE will create economic opportunities for people who may not have access to professional resources and support the business community by showcasing talented women who hope to solve problems.

In addition to a lack of funding for female founders, Canipe relayed there are barriers just to starting tech careers and then moving from mid-level positions into leadership roles.

Despite the challenges, Canipe said statistics show the positive impacts of having female professionals at every level of an organization. She called it undeniable that diversity helps businesses increase return on investments, improve employee culture and retention and make better decisions.

“I really hope that by creating this group, we can amplify the wonderful work that other organizations are already doing,” she said. “And connect women more directly into those resources they’re seeking, and they just don’t know where to start.”

Canipe (second from right), said her experience with the Tampa Bay Chamber was invaluable to her work with Synapse and now WTE.

Canipe relayed that she hopes to host WTE meetings in St. Peterburg by March, although she said that would likely happen much sooner. She encourages women to connect via the organization’s Slack channel while a website is in the works.

She noted the group is geographically dispersed across Tampa Bay but said there are several ways to participate in the organization virtually, outside of the monthly happy hour meet-ups.

The ultimate goal, explained Canipe, is to make Florida the most business-friendly environment for women. She also plans to create a thriving talent pipeline of female professionals for the tech industry.

Canipe said other local tech leaders offered their support for that mission, and she plans to provide “a really robust, well-resourced program” by Q1 2023.

“It’s somewhat surprising to me how much interest there’s been in what we’re trying to do,” added Canipe. “There are awesome people all around our community – we’re really lucky in that way.”

For more information on Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship, visit the Slack channel here or its LinkedIn page here.

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