Tampa Bay WaVE, a nonprofit that serves tech startups in the area, has been funded by grants since the launch of its Venture Center in 2013. And there’s no sign of slowing down. In May of 2016, Bank of America issued a grant of $27,500 to the nonprofit to help with its workshop series. Now, on August 31, the WaVE received a $50,000 grant from the Small Business Administration to develop a seed fund. According to their press release, the WaVE “projects the fund will reach $5 million or more.”
Even if seed funding isn’t what you’re after, don’t worry; the WaVE won’t leave you behind. Working professionals and startup hopefuls alike can benefit from the services offered. Here’s what to expect if you go:
1. Networking events galore
The Startup Workshop Series offers 100 hour-long events throughout the year, often featuring panels of business experts. At the Women Making WaVEs workshop on July 14, 2016, News Channel 8’s Stacie Schaible moderated a discussion about women in technology. The panel included Susan Gear, founder and CEO of myNFO, Jane Wilkerson, CFO of Venuetize (sitting in for founder and COO Karri Zaremba), and Stephanie Davis, senior director of enterprise agility and digital product leadership at Cox Target Media.This particular event was co-hosted by Working Women of Tampa Bay, and took place upstairs from the WaVE in The Attic Cafe (formerly just the regular ole’ attic of the building at 500 E Kennedy Blvd). The WaVE’s workshops are free to members, $25 to the public, and $10 for students to attend.
2. Weekly access to experts
Every Wednesday up to three experts out of a network of 45 are in the building. Nonmembers can schedule one-on-one appointments with these industry gurus by purchasing a $15 day pass. The day pass includes three 30-minute Ask an Expert sessions and one day of coworking.
3. A clean but cozy coworking space
The Venture Center features a conference room that can be reserved, a small studio for video production, a kitchen and dining area, couches, a foosball table, common areas lined with desks and printers, and individual offices. In a narrow, unlit space behind the main desk are a hammock and pillows, housed between two walls. In the common area you might find a 3D printer and members’ laptops adorned with Pokémon Go stickers. Coworking options range from the $15 day pass to 24/7 access to the facility to a private office that you can lock when you leave.
4. Cutting edge technology
While giving a free tour of the facility in July, Marketing Manager Gracie Stemmer pointed out that the WaVE was one of three spaces in Florida to test out a new virtual conferencing device.
“We’re piloting a new piece of technology that Brighthouse was working on for collaborative spaces. It’s called a telepresence. Basically it turns the room into a conference room, and someone else who has a telepresence on the other side can have video conferencing with you. Those things up there are cameras that move and follow you and sense who is talking. It’s very futuristic and a pretty cool experience.”
5. A competitive incubator for startups
Entrepreneurs begin by applying to the FirstWaVE Accelerator program, which features three stages: build, launch, and grow. In the launch stage, selected startups prepare to compete with each other in a pitch contest. Executives from the Tampa Bay Rays have judged the WaVE’s pitch contests on two occasions. In July of 2016 they declared that the winner was Harness, a company that developed a way to collect charitable donations as a percentage of retail purchases.