"WHETHER IN PERSON OR VIRTUAL, WE SEE THESTRENGTH OF THIS COMMUNITY CONTINUE TO GROW."- LAKSHMI SHENOY, CEO
REFLECTING ON THE CURVEBALLS OF 2020
For Embarc Collective, 2020 was defined as an exercise of turning obstacles into opportunity.
In January we launched the final component of our value proposition, our 32,000-square-foot physical space. In doing this, we could finally bring our vision of making Embarc Collective the central landing zone for the Tampa Bay startup community to fruition.
And, in spite of a global pandemic, I’m proud to say we’ve started to do just that: At the time of publication, Embarc Collective is the home to over 80 early-stage technology startups, which accounts for about 20% of startups in the Tampa Bay region.
Since March 2020, we’ve accepted 40 startups into our Embarc Collective membership, demonstrating that the startup community can grow in spite of (or perhaps because of?) the world being turned upside down with COVID-19. This is the community I focus my time on each day and constantly think about how we can increasingly leverage our resources, experience and network to best serve these growing ventures.
We made modifications to our space and protocols to ensure that startups could still build safely amongst a community of peers. Those companies have received almost 1,300 hours of in-person and virtual 1:1 coaching from our staff in 2020. And we’ve hosted 65 group learning sessions for our membership, made available both in-person and virtually, with an average participant rating of 3.75 out of 4.0.
Pre-pandemic, we were on track to host over 100 events on technology, entrepreneurship, innovation and business in our space with our community partners and sponsors. While in-person activities were halted for a few months, we have since resumed small group events at Embarc Collective, but with a new process to ensure adherence to CDC health and safety recommendations. We have also launched hybrid events – where a small number of attendees are in person similar to a studio audience and the remainder of attendees participate virtually. What’s amazing is that whether in person or virtual, we see the strength of this community continue to grow.
The pandemic has allowed us to bring founders and investors from around the world to the Embarc Collective membership and Tampa Bay startup community. With virtual events, we were able to secure speakers like Matt Salzberg of Blue Apron, Alexa Von Tobel of LearnVest and Inspired Capital, and Angela Lee of 37 Angels and Columbia Business School for our Southeast CEO Summit and Glaring Gap Summit.
2020 has also given us the opportunity to reflect on the inequities that exist in the startup community and how we can shape Tampa Bay to offer more opportunities to all entrepreneurs. This is an area where we need to continue to work as the demographics of the startup community in Tampa Bay do not yet reflect what our broader community looks like.
Our work with JPMorgan Chase to produce the Glaring Gap Report highlighted that there are just 16 women investors (within leading angel networks and within venture firms) in the state of Florida. Yes, just 16 in a state with a population of over 21 million people. In November, we trained 50 women to conduct their own diligence process through our Glaring Gap Summit in November to address this dismal stat head-on and participate in startup investment opportunities.
To say that in our first full year of operation, 2020 sent some curveballs is an understatement. But we’ve come out the other side stronger and more resilient