Tampa Bay Wave recently reached a milestone as it celebrated its 10th anniversary helping tech entrepreneurs develop and grow breakout tech startups in Tampa.
When Tampa Bay Wave started in 2008, it was mainly a platform for startup owners to connect with each other, recruit talent, and try to raise money for their companies. But in the same way Wave has accelerated startups over the past decade, it accelerated its own growth in 2013 when it branched out into programs and services. The effort began through a partnership with the University of South Florida to form a tech business accelerator and venture center in downtown Tampa. The partnership led to a $1 million grant from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. Along with that came another $1 million in matching funds from local businesses. Since then, Wave has worked with over 200 Tampa Bay startups, and they have raised over $150 million in investment capital, leading to the creation of 1200 local jobs. Their mission is to help companies get started in Tampa Bay, then stay local and grow local.
Tampa Bay Wave has become a nationally recognized tech accelerator program. Overall, it has raised over $4.3 million from sponsors, foundations, and federal grants to support their mission to help tech companies get started in Tampa Bay, then stay local and grow local. Benefactors include Bank of America, Florida Blue, the City of Tampa Government and Hillsborough County, Foley & Lardner LLP, Sourcetoad, Sykes, the Tampa Bay Rays, and Tampa Electric Co.
Over the past 12 months, Wave has undergone a period of rapid growth. Among the highlights:
- November 2017 — Wave solidifies a partnership with Startup Genome to collect key insights and data from Tampa Bay’s startup community.
- December 2017 — Wave becomes the first accelerator program based in Florida to be an official member of the Global Accelerator Network. Tampa Bay Wave is among the more than 90 industry-best accelerators in the GAN community, located in over 120 cities on six continents.
- January 2018 — Nielsen Foundation collaborated with Tampa Bay Wave to provide $100,000 for the TechDiversity Accelerator program. The program is designed to encourage the growth and development of diverse tech startups in Tampa Bay and around the nation.
- March 2018 — Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was named Wave’s Board Chair-Elect.
- April 2018 — Tech entrepreneurs Tony DiBenedetto and Steve MacDonald became Wave Executive Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. DiBenedetto and McDonald have both built and/or exited a $100 million-plus company in Tampa Bay in the past three years.
- May 2018 — Ten companies join Wave’s TechDiversity accelerator program, including seven with women CEO’s or co-founders and seven with minority CEO’s or co-founders. The selected cohort features some of the most promising startups in the health tech, ed tech, and HR tech verticals.
As Tampa Bay Wave moves into its second decade, they’ve set lofty goals for themselves. By 2025, Wave wants to be recognized as the primary source of investment-worthy startups in the Southeast, with a portfolio that raises over $100 million per year in early-stage capital annually. Based on the success they’ve helped local startups achieve over the past 10 years, Tampa Bay Wave should have no trouble growing itself along with them.
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