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CrowdStrike chairman joins KnowBe4 board

 Gerhard Watzinger, chairman of the board of directors of Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity company CrowdStrike Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: CRWD), has joined the board of directors of KnowBe4 in Clearwater. Watzinger will be an independent member of the board of KnowBe4, a cybersecurity training firm with a simulated phishing platform. Watzinger, a former executive with Intel, has served as chairman of CrowdStrike since April 2012. He also serves on the board of directors of Mastech Digital Inc. (NYSE: MHH) and Absolute Software (TSX: ABT). In a statement Watzinger said he's watched the success of KnowBe4, which got a $300 million investment from private equity giant KKR in June. "KnowBe4 is exactly the type of organization that I like to get involved with – startup mentality, killer growth, strong leadership, 26 consecutive quarters up and an overall positive work environment," he said.

Publix expands sales of Mother Kombucha

All Publix Super Markets stores throughout Florida are now selling Mother Kombucha, the living, probiotic tea made by Mother Kombucha LLC in St. Petersburg. Building on a successful launch in their southwest Florida stores, Publix expanded the brand across the state to over 840 locations, a news release said. Five flavors are available: Blue Rose, Hopped Passion Fruit, The Trop, Lavender Mojito and Turmeric Ginger Lemonade. Mother Kombucha, founded by Tonya Donati in 2014, is among the companies featured on PitchLyst.

Eckerd College names new president

Damian Fernandez, chancellor of The Pennsylvania State University-Abington College, was named president of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. Fernandez, who will assume office on July 1, 2020, succeeds Donald Eastman, who announced his retirement last February. Eckerd's presidential search committee reviewed more than 200 applications for the position. Fernandez is a Cuban immigrant who grew up in Puerto Rico and has more than 30 years of higher education experience in the classroom and in administration, a news release said. 

BlockSpaces partners with Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay

A new partnership between Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay and BlockSpaces, a blockchain technology innovation center, will launch in February, with a Blockchain for Teens workshop at the #Pay Tampa Bay conference. Blockchain, a digital public ledger that permanently records payment processing and transactions, likely will play a big role in job creation in the future, said Rosa Shores, co-founder and CEO of BlockSpaces. "We hope to ignite a new generation of entrepreneurs to change the world in ways that maybe we can’t even conceive of today," Shores said in a news release. #PAY Tampa Bay ​, scheduled for Feb 20, 2020, is being organized by BlockSpaces and The Mandalay Group to showcase local and national leaders in the financial industry and will be one of the first main events held at the new Embarc Collective in downtown Tampa.  

Tombolo Books announces brick and mortar space in Grand Central District

Tombolo Books' official brick and mortar space will be located at 2153 First Avenue South, according to the independent bookstore's founder, Alsace Walentine.  Walentine announced the location on Facebook Monday morning, touting the location's proximity to Black Crow Coffee's Grand Central location, as well as Squeeze Juice Works. The location is also just two blocks west of St. Pete's historic Haslam's bookstore.  Planning for the official Tombolo Books space has been an effort four years in the making, Walentine wrote in her Facebook post. The indie bookseller has been a traveling effort since its founding, offering book sales and author signings at numerous events ranging from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg to Preserve the 'Burg. Tombolo has had a presence at most major festivals, indie markets, and it even had a temporary pop-up shop inside the Central Arcade in St. Pete. An extensive micro-loan effort has helped get the brick and mortar space on its feet, but the bookstore is still looking for more donors. Visit Tombolo's IndieGoGo site here to donate.

Cott buys The Water Guy

Cott Corp. (NYSE: COT) in Tampa acquired substantially all of the assets of The Water Guy, which includes WG America Company and certain affiliates. The Water Guy provides water solutions and office coffee service to residential and commercial customers and the acquisition will grow the customer base of Cott subsidiary DS Services by more than 7,500 in eastern and central Pennsylvania, northern MarylandDelaware and New Jersey, a news release said. Cott, a water, coffee, tea, extracts and filtration service company, did not disclose the purchase price.

Tampa General operating revenue up 9.2 percent

Florida Health Sciences Center Inc., the parent company of Tampa General Hospital and other healthcare entities, reported $1.45 billion in operating revenue for fiscal year 2019, ended Sept. 30. That was a 9.2 percent increase from the prior fiscal year, according to a financial report filed for bondholders. The company’s gain from operations was $14.5 million, a 0.1 percent year from the year-ago period. Non-operating activity and investments pushed the total gain to $59.2 million, down 10.8 percent from fiscal 2018. While Tampa General Hospital was in the black for the just-ended year with an operating gain of $43.6 million, most of the other Florida Health Sciences entities, including the Tampa General Medical Group and the Brandon Healthplex, lost money in fiscal 2019, the report showed.

St. Pete man named to Blockchain Task Force

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Jason Holloway to the state's  Blockchain Task Force. Holloway, who lives in St.  Petersburg, is a senior legislative assistant at the Florida Legislature and the CEO of DLT Consulting, Inc. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and his master’s degree in digital currencies and blockchain technology from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. The task force will study if and how Florida’s state, county, and municipal governments can benefit from a transition to blockchain-based systems for record-keeping, data security, financial transactions, and service delivery, and identify ways blockchain technology can be used to improve government interaction with businesses and the public.

City Council Oks deal for more downtown parking

The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved a resolution, allowing the city to purchase a downtown public parking facility from the DeNunzio Group. The parking facility is part of a 25-story mixed-use project the Boston-based developer plans at the southeast corner of 1st Avenue North and 5th Street. The facility will have at least 240 parking spaces on four levels. The deal calls for the city to spend no more than $28,700 per parking space. Dustin DeNunzio, president of the company, said he would be a long-term owner. He hopes to bring to St. Petersburg some of the biotech and tech companies he’s associated with in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

USF President imagines ‘audacious future’

Steve Currall, president of University of South Florida, outlined ambitious plans for USF during his inauguration speech Thursday. He wants USF to become an overall top 25 public university in the United States. His ultimate goal is for USF to each eligibility for membership in the Association of American Universities, the 65 top research universities in North America. USF has a strategic advantage over other universities due to its location in a growing metropolitan region with a focus on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, Currall said.  He said USF serves as a catalyst for economic growth and that USF can become to Tampa Bay what Stanford University has been to Silicon Valley.

St. Pete insuretech firm files for patent

Neptune Flood, a St. Petersburg insurance company that uses advanced data analytics and technology to create quotes, has filed for a patent for its Triton technology. Triton is being used for residential flood products now, but Trevor Burgess, Neptune's chairman, said the company expects to use the Triton for additional products in the next few months. Triton has "fundamentally altered the way risk is selected, pricing is determined and how we allocate the resulting insurance policies among reinsurers," Brad Schulz, Neptune's chief technology officer, said in a news release.

Moody’s puts Tech Data’s ratings on review

Moody's Investors Service put the Baa3 senior unsecured ratings of Tech Data Corp. (Nasdaq: TECD) under review for downgrade, after the announcement that the Clearwater-based IT distributor agreed to be acquired by Apollo Global Management for $5.4 billion. Funds associated with Apollo committed an aggregate $3.2 billion equity contribution and financial institutions have agreed to provide committed debt financing up to $5.0 billion. The rating review will focus on the financial leverage and ultimate capital structure resulting from the leveraged buy-out, Moody's said.  The review for downgrade is based on the expectation that the company will have higher financial leverage following the acquisition given the private equity ownership.

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