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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 25, 2016 5 years ago

Open the bottle

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The hip factor is high for the Tampa entrepreneur sector, according to a new study.

The hip factor is high for the Tampa entrepreneur sector, according to a new study.

The bad news: it lacks collaboration and a cohesive vision, is ill defined and doesn't have a strong mantra or brand. That's a key takeaway from an entrepreneurial ecosystems study led by Rebecca White, director of the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center in the Sykes College of Business at the University of Tampa. The Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation funded the study with a $150,000 grant.

“In Silicon Valley, investors are afraid of missing the next big opportunity. In Tampa Bay, investors are always looking for the next big opportunity,” White says in a statement that accompanied the release of the study, which included 40 in-depth interviews with local entrepreneurs, industry officials and political leaders. “That subtle difference encapsulates the mindset difference between successful and nascent ecosystems.”

The study's conclusions stem mostly from an academic concept known as the theory of bottlenecks, which compares and contrasts the pros and cons of a community to
pinpoint a weakness.

Strengths in Tampa, according to the report, include: a diverse population; ample knowledge spillover; low cost of living; lots of incubation opportunities; and an excellent international airport. Another positive factor is a “strong and positive energy directed toward the development of a strong ecosystem,” states the report.

The list of factors that impede growth and development of a strong entrepreneurial community is longer. In addition to the lack of vision and collaboration, the list includes: a “splintered” urban core; lack of actionable direction on public mass transit, considered a “poor” system; limited corporate buyers for entrepreneurs' products; a perceived difficulty getting the entrepreneur community's story out via news media outlets; talent needs for individuals with coding skills and CEO leadership skills; and experience and a lack of funding for early stage companies that need more than $1 million. “The theory of bottlenecks suggests that until these issues are addressed the ecosystem will not grow,” the report states.

Ouch.

Many of the topics are already being addressed. Billions of dollars in development projects are primed to link Tampa's urban core together, and mass transit is a priority for business leaders and officials.

White, in her report, says for Tampa's entrepreneur sector to reach its full potential, it needs to build a unified mission and mindset. “Social movements fail without a catalyzing moment when the vision and reason for the movement become crystal clear to the group,” the report states.

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