Photo by David Betz.
Monday marked the beginning of Tampa Bay Startup Week, a five-day-long series of events meant to bring creatives, techies, entrepreneurs, and anyone who’s a combination of any of those together to meet, plot, and party. There’s a small but interesting tech scene here in the Tampa Bay area, and a number of factors including the subtropical climate, low cost of living, and the influx of people to the area — you might call it a brain gain — could help it grow dramatically over the next few years.
Me and Anitra, working the room. Photo by Laicos.
The week’s kickoff party took place at the Chase Basecamp, a rented venue on 7th Avenue, the main street of Ybor City (pronounced “EE-bor”), Tampa’s nightlife and party neighborhood. The Basecamp (located at the corner of 7th Avenue and 20th Street), serves as the central meeting place for Startup Week participants, as well as a venue for many of the scheduled events.
Photo by Laicos.
While chatting up the people from local mobile development shop Sourcetoad, I was introduced to the friendly-looking gentleman below, who went up to me and said “I just have to tell you, I love that accordion!”
Photo by Laicos.
As he walked away, Anitra told me that I just shook hands with Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa. I’m a relatively recent transplant from Toronto, so I’ve never seen a photo of him, and I’m too used to picturing the mayor as either a sweaty, drug- and booze-addled, embarrassing mess, or too attached to highfalutin’ extravaganzas that are full of sound and fury but ultimately signifying nothing to care about a small grassroots effort like this one. I’m also not used to a mayor with his approval rating.
Photo by Yours Truly.
He gave a short speech to the crowd, in which he encouraged everyone to meet other people of like minds and ambitions, do what we do, “be a little crazy”, disrupt things, and start businesses. He talked about the brain drain that existed until recently, when people would leave Tampa in search of their fortunes. The situation has been turned around, what with Florida being one of the most moved-to states in the U.S. (as of this writing, it’s the third most populous state, after California and Texas), the population growth in the Tampa Bay/Jacksonville corridor and “Orlampa”, and Penske rental truck data that suggests that the Tampa Bay/Sarasota area is in the top 10 most moved-to locales. He asked the group to keep working to make Tampa a better place to be, if only to make sure that his daughters don’t move away to Atlanta, Austin, or anyplace else.
The money quote that got the audience to really put their hands together:
“I want Tampa Bay to be the economic engine of the southeast.”
It’s bold. It’s ambitious. I like it.
After all the speechifying, he then did what any good mayor would do: take control of the decks and drop a fat beat.
Photo by Laicos.
Anitra and I spent the rest of the evening either catching up with or getting to know the people in attendance, including:
Here’s what’s happening with Tampa Bay Startup Week today and tomorrow. These events are free — just visit the Tampa Bay Startup Week site and sign up!
Today (Tuesday, February 3):
Tomorrow (Wednesday, February 4):
This article also appears in my tech blog, Global Nerdy.