How to Obtain Start Up Funding In Tampa Bay

The truth is, opening your own business, especially one that is a brick-and-mortar concept, has never been easy.  Scraping together the funds, finding a site, hoping for an SBA loan, and trying to borrow funding from friends and family can take years and dilute the equity you hoped to have in your start up when you finally open the doors.  Start up funding in Tampa Bay is no different – or at least – it wasn’t until recently.  Today, though, start ups are getting more publicity than ever and as a result, the business tools and even the venture capitalists that can make or break a business can all be found locally.
The Changing Face of the Tampa Start Up Scene

In recent years, the Tampa area has been making the news due to projects like the nine million square foot Water Street development, which is actively sponsoring entrepreneurial start ups within Jeff Vinik’s 3 billion dollar project.  What is so refreshing is that Vinik is on the record as stating the importance of incubating new businesses in the Tampa area.

The great news in all this is that the Tampa area – and the start ups in it – are finally getting the publicity they deserve.  Anyone who has ever opened a business can attest how frustrating and stressful it can be … and how rewarding.  Recent events like the TechStars Start Up Week held in February bring a local focus to start ups and hours of training and events that can help new business owners find the knowledge and resources they need to break through roadblocks in their business.

Tampa Bay Start Up Week  

Chances are, if you’re in the start up space in Tampa, you attended Start Up Week at the end of February.  This five day event, featuring dozens of speakers and a keynote by Gary Vaynerchuk, the founder of Vayner Media, served as a way for new businesses and entrepreneurs to take in tons of content from national and international experts in all facets of opening their own business. 

The beauty of events like this – and the key one for start up founders to understand – is that events like this offer the perfect way to meet other entrepreneurs and network with them.  Just as importantly, the Start Up Week offered the chance to meet with angel investors, venture capitalists, and experts to not only pitch ideas but to get feedback on those ideas.  These are key moments for any start up and founders need to seek them out – especially since the programs offered run the full spectrum of information that start ups need to know. 

Apply For Accelerator Programs In Tampa & St. Pete

More importantly, all this focus on start ups has led to the development of some world-class opportunities for new companies with accelerator programs springing up in the Tampa area to help facilitate start ups and take them from theory to actual.
Chief among them is the Tampa Bay Wave, an entrepreneurial hub where tech companies of all sizes come to build, launch, and grow right here in Tampa.  The Tampa Bay Wave offers many of the systems and structures that a world-class accelerator would be expected to offer – space to work and mentorship to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market.  Guided by the ideology of “Build, Launch, Grow”, Wave membership is currently comprised of over 70 companies that are all in full start up mode.

On the other end of the spectrum is the TEC Garage, another incubator located in St. Petersburg that works with both start ups and freelancers and provides office space, connectivity, and 24/7 access to help entrepreneurs get the mentorship and focus they’ll need to scale and grow. Do you have what it takes to join?  You can apply to the Tampa Bay Wave right here or to TEC Garage here.    

Do You Have Your Pitch Perfect?

One thing to remember is that, as a new start up, you need to always be able to discuss what it is that you and your company do.  Networking is a critical component for start ups and having an “elevator speech” handy is always a good idea.  Always be on the lookout for events like One Million Cups for the chance to build your network of resources and connections. 
Based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation developed 1 Million Cups in 2012—a free program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities.  Meeting every week in the heart of St. Pete, One Million Cups might be the perfect place to transform your new company. 

One thing to remember is that with all those connections, you always need to take the time to follow up and nurture new business relationships.  Don’t just swap business cards and never reach out – take the time to find your new acquaintances on social media, send them an email, and include them in your business and growth. 

Tampa Bay and St. Pete are quickly becoming a great resource for new companies and start ups and, by actively using those resources, entrepreneurs can speed up development times and be able to overcome many of the obstacles and pitfalls that affect new companies.


By: Chris Groote


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