Tampa Bay Wave is a nonprofit that hosts a wide variety of accelerator programs, from those with diverse founders and women in tech to cybersecurity startups. They offer mentorship, pitch coaching and networking opportunities for founders to meet investors. The nonprofit recently appointed their newest board chair, Charlotte Baker, for a period of 2 years. Grit Daily caught up with Baker, an award winning serial entrepreneur and the CEO of Digital Hands, a cybersecurity firm, to learn about her history and what she hopes to accomplish as board chair of Tampa Bay Wave.
After running into Linda Olson, CEO of Tampa Bay Wave, on a flight to San Francisco and discussing what the organization has been up to, Baker was impressed to find how much the accelerator had grown, having helped over 100 companies reach their goals. By the end of the flight, she happily agreed to join the board and got elected to chair the board just two years later.
On her board appointment, Baker says, “What attracts me to being on the board as well as chairing the board is the mission of course – putting a lot of innovative tech companies into this community.” Baker wants to focus on programming, using her experience as an entrepreneur to put forth more programming rich with content that founders need, and to show which roads to take and which to avoid. She also wants to elevate Tampa Bay Wave nationwide to attract different sources of capital and creative financing options.
Baker says of startup founders, “I’ve been in their shoes. I did it the hard way,” because when she started Digital Hands, there were no accelerator programs like Tampa Bay Wave to offer guidance.
Of the CyberTech|X cohort, Baker says, “This is such an important industry and the Wave is spot on by launching right away a 100% pure cybersecurity cohort. This is an area where jobs are not readily available. We need more and more innovation in that particular industry, and there’s quite a demand for its high paying jobs, high demand jobs. There’s a low supply of talent, and so being able to bolster these companies that want to help out with this national and worldwide problem, I think the Wave is really spot on focusing on this. There is a lot of need for it.”
Baker believes that the nonprofit has helped the community in innumerable ways, stating, “Tampa Bay Wave has played a very important role in the import of external capital as well as the import of companies into this community.” Some of the startups that joined Wave’s accelerator programs have relocated to Tampa Bay, at least somewhat because of their positive experience in the program, and their exposure to the talent and investment capital in the region.
This week, Baker participated in the “Women Shaking Up Cybersecurity” panel at the 2021 Synapse Summit, a tech conference in Florida that took place virtually. She spoke alongside one of the cybersecurity cohort founders, Rachel Cash, CEO of ELROI. Baker was impressed by Cash’s belief that, “talent augmentation here is important.” Cash is partnering with universities to prime young talent for careers in cybersecurity, focusing especially on bringing women into the field. Baker believes it is valuable to take chances on talent.
Charlotte Baker is a powerhouse of female innovation and inspiration, having won numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from eWomenNetwork and “CEO of the Year” by CEO Magazine. Tampa Bay Wave believes that her cybersecurity, entrepreneurial background makes her an ideal fit for the organization.