TAMPA - Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced a $1 million grant to establish the Tampa Bay FirstWaVE Venture Center as part of the U.S. Commerce Department’s 2012 i6 Challenge. The grants recognize organizations with the best strategies for creating proof of concept centers that will drive innovation and entrepreneurship for local economic development.
The grant is one of just six i6 Challenge grants awarded nationwide this year – the only one of its kind awarded this year in the southeast. The i6 Challenge grant award is a result of a dynamic, collaborative, regional partnership led by the University of South Florida and including Tampa Bay WaVE, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, the University of Tampa, and various private, local companies including Sykes Enterprises, AVI-SPL, and Florida Blue.
During the two-year i6 Challenge funding period, the FirstWaVE Venture Center is anticipated to support 80 new tech ventures and create an estimated 245 high-wage jobs totaling more than $15 million in annual salaries. The program will initially serve the eight county Tampa Bay region but will be designed to create an innovation model that can be replicated in other Florida regions.
”USF is proud to partner with Tampa Bay WaVE and the other regional partners in an effort to foster the growth and long term success of innovative entrepreneurs in the region,” said Tracey Swartz, assistant director of USF’s innovation and incubation program.
The program will connect new web and mobile app ventures with a wide array of regional entrepreneurship resources, including mentors, investors, capital, educational workshops, business services and industry expertise, to help them grow into viable tech companies. In addition to the $1 million grant, matching funding of just over $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions will come from local corporations and members of the partnership.
The project is led by Olson, Swartz, and Dr. Sudeep Sarkar, associate vice president for research and innovation and professor of computer science and engineering at USF.
Founded in 2008, Tampa Bay WaVE’s mission is to help local entrepreneurs turn technology ideas into high growth business ventures. Currently, WaVE has over 80 technology venture members at various stages, 10% of which have reached over $1 million in annual sales or outside investment. One member venture was acquired for $35 million in 2011. In 2012, WaVE was named “Entrepreneurial Organization of the Year” by the USF Alumni Society of Entrepreneurship.