Tampa Bay Wave, an “entrepreneurial hub” dedicated to helping tech startups become scalable businesses, is currently accepting applications for their TechDiversity Accelerator program. The program, funded by The Nielsen Foundation, focuses on accelerating startups that are at least 51% owned by women, minorities, veterans, LGBTQ+, or persons with disabilities.
The 90-day program began accepting applications in March, and will do so until April 12, extended from March 31st due to the coronavirus outbreak. The program expects to accept between 8-10 companies for their 2020 cohort. Each year since its inception in 2018, interest in the program has grown, increasing the numbers of applicants.
America thrives on diversity, and the conversation about representation has gotten loud enough recent years that it is spilling over into the business world. Companies understand that they cannot succeed with mass appeal unless they are inclusive of all races and gender identities, and generally supportive of the underrepresented. Some companies go so far as to invest specifically in programs that support such underrepresented groups to do their part in balancing the playing field.
The TechDiversity Accelerator Program “gives entrepreneurs of varied backgrounds an opportunity to leverage their diversity for the expressed purpose of realizing their aspirations of success, and to make a positive impact on our growing community,” according to their website. The program offers mentorship and coaching, networking connections and access to capital through their investor network.
Tampa Bay Wave takes no equity in the companies they support, and even offers a travel stipend for founders who are required to travel to Tampa to attend mandatory events during the program.
Some companies that graduated from the program even decided to move their operations to Florida, though priority is not given to Tampa-based companies.
Twenty-one companies have successfully graduated from the TechDiversity Accelerator Program. Tampa Bay Wave focuses on tech startups, but because of technology is a part of any modern business, they support a wide range of innovative business ideas. Lazarillo, founded by a Rene Espinoza of Chile, is an app that maps cities and buildings for sight-impaired users and employs the voice message feature on their phones to guide them. Resility Health sells a stress assessment and management self-care toolkit to show people the correlation between their mental stress and their physical condition. Little Global Citizens sends boxes of country-based cultural crafts for children to educate them about diversity, travel and traditions.
Dr. Richard Munassi, the TechDiversity & Build Cohort Director says of the program, “Founders have lauded their experience in Tampa, finding a welcoming community that prides itself on acceptance, and ready to provide the connections, knowledge, and support that every early stage technology company needs.”
Linda Olson, President of Tampa Bay Wave says of this year’s cohort that “our biggest hopes are not only for this cohort to produce even more success stories than our last few cohorts, but I am personally hopeful that one or more of these companies could have solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges today (including COVID19).”
Tampa Bay Wave is raising funds to assist startups that are currently being negatively affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus. It does not seem to be a good year to start a company, as successful institutions close their doors, perhaps indefinitely, but the crisis also allows for directed innovation to combat a problem that is affecting every person around the world, in one way or another.
Such a globally unifying feeling has not been seen in generations, and may spur the greatest innovations of our time. Tampa Bay Wave seeks to foster those innovations that come from the underrepresented, who also tend to make up the demographics of those most negatively affected by a crisis.