Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Tampa, FL

Tampa, FL

The Sunshine State’s third largest city, Tampa, is gaining momentum as one of the Top 25 Best Big Cities to Start a Business.

Tampa, FL is Florida’s third most-populous city. Its nickname “The Big Guava” was coined in the 1970s after Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto created the phrase as a reference to New York City’s famous nickname with a Sunshine State twist. In 2017, WalletHub.com named Tampa as number 23 on their list of the best big cities to start a business. In addition, the metropolitan area of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, was ranked the nation’s 18th-most active metropolitan area in terms of startup activity by the Kauffman Foundation’s Kauffman Index.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Tampa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

ENGAGE calls itself a “network for evolving entrepreneurs.” They host regular meetings with the intent to help people make their dreams and ideas a reality.

Located in Tampa, but serving the entire Hillsborough County area, Homebrew Hillsborough hosts monthly meetups for entrepreneurs and those interested in technology and innovation to network and share ideas.

All levels of female entrepreneurs are welcome to attend and network with other women to learn about how to become successful entrepreneurs.

RGA hosts weekly meetings in the area for entrepreneurs to meet and connect with others as well as local business professionals.

On their website, StartupPOP sells tickets to regular Tech Startup Pitch Events that also promise opportunities for networking. These meetings take place across the nation, including in Tampa.

With a motto of “Share | Create | Innovate”, Tampa Bay Entrepreneurs is a great place for entrepreneurs to meet each other and share ideas to grow their businesses.

With a focus on technological innovation, this group is a way to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into products and get them on the market.

A branch of Entrepreneurs International Network, T.E.N. hosts seminars and networking events on a semi-regular basis for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the area.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Every Wednesday, early-stage businesses present their companies and hold a question-and-answer segment with the audience. Anyone can attend these sessions for free.

An annual event that showcases startups, offers informative programs, and even includes pitch competitions for a chance at earning capital.

The Tampa chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit that helps small businesses grow and succeed, hosts monthly workshops on going into business and preparing business plans.

An annual week-long event that showcases local startups and hosts a number of speakers and seminars that help entrepreneurs improve and grow.

During the three-day conference, attendees network with other entrepreneurial-minded students and listen to presentations from seasoned entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, motivational speakers and fellow students who are making the transition from dreamers to doers. One of the highlights of the conference is the CEO Global Pitch Competition. CEO accepts a total of 200 submissions for grand prizes of $15,000 in funding.

Geared towards female entrepreneurs, the Working Women State Conference is an annual event with the aim of helping Florida women get their ideas off the ground, overcome obstacles, and reach success.


Startup Competitions:

An annual competition presented by 1 Million Cups where entrepreneurs send in videos about their businesses and compete for a chance to earn a cash prize.

Tampa is one of the cities that hosts qualifying rounds for the Global Finals of a global startup competition sponsored in part by investment firm Revolution.

An accelerator with several locations across Florida, CareGiver also offers an annual pitch competition for startups and small businesses that help make life easier for caregivers.

A competition for students at the University of Tampa to pitch their business ideas and compete against one another for cash prizes.


Co-working Spaces:

CoCreativ offers day passes, office space, meeting rooms, and even event spaces while promising there will be no hidden fees.

With membership plans ranging from a mailbox and access to a meeting room to 24/7 access to a dedicated desk, CoWorkTampa is one of the city’s premier co-working spaces.

In addition to fast Internet access, audio and video capabilities, and conference rooms, CoWork Ybor also offers complimentary coffee to workers.

As of December 2017, Tampa will join the long list of U.S. cities that are home to a branch of Industrious Office co-working spaces. This branch promises a coffee bar, access to local treats, and relaxation rooms in addition to the standard working space and conference rooms.

Also an accelerator, Tampa Bay WaVE offers several plans for co-working, including a premium plan that grants access to a permanent locking office.


Maker spaces:

Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative offers a makerspace and equipment for small projects.

Across the bay in St. Petersburg, St. Pete Makers provides resources and classes for creators. They also offer special discounts for teachers and students.

Tampa Hackerspace is a non-profit workshop that provides the equipment and connections needed to create and advance projects.



Serving North Tampa Bay, the SMARTstart Incubator is a way for new businesses to grow through mentoring, connection to resources, networking, and financing.

An incubator that looks to help small tech companies in the Tampa Bay region reach the next level.

TBTI is associated with the University of South Florida and looks to grow technological companies in part by providing access to expensive research equipment.

Incubators vs. Accelerators: Which Best Fits Your Needs?



A Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce program, the MBA is designed to help Black and Hispanic-led businesses grow and succeed.

Sponsored by the University of South Florida, this accelerator is open to companies affiliated with the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator.

Students and recent graduates of the University of Tampa can get connected to mentors and compete for opportunities at earning capital.

Technology-focused companies headquartered in Tampa Bay can receive access to capital, access to professional mentors and coaches, and a dedicated office.

WaVE sorts their clients into one of three categories (Build, Launch, or Growth phase) in an attempt to better meet the specific needs of the startup and help grow the company.

Find the Accelerator that’s right for you



The University of Tampa offers an entrepreneurship major and minor, a master’s degree in entrepreneurship, and an MBA with an entrepreneurship concentration.

In 2016, Entrepreneur Magazine named the USF Center for Entrepreneurship’s graduate program as the nation’s tenth-best and the best overall in the Southeast region.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Ballast Point provides capital and a network of connections to help businesses from the southeast United States grow and reach their next level.

A combination of angel investing, venture capitalism, and crowdfunding, Florida Funders provides capital to small businesses founded in the Sunshine State.

Focusing exclusively on the lower middle-market of United States companies, KLH provides a number of ways to help businesses reach greater levels of success.

Stonehenge looks to invest in “technology-enabled companies” that solve business problems.

Westshore gives capital to small and medium-sized businesses, with a focus on manufacturing, distribution, and service companies.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Weekly newsletter breaking down upcoming events at the Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center.

The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative offers a newsletter with information on free resources for small businesses.

Offers a morning and afternoon roundup of local business news, as well as breaking news alerts.

Announces upcoming events organized by the organization.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Tampa not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Augusta, GeorgiaChattanooga, Tennessee, Salt Lake City, Utah

Article by Quinn Pilkey


Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.