In wooing a Silicon Valley cybersecurity company to move its headquarters to Tampa, the region both swatted away heavy competition and a rebuffed a long-standing myth about the Sunshine State.
On the former, Benny Czarny, founder and CEO of the company that relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to Tampa, OPSWAT, says the firm looked at North Carolina and other sites. On the latter, Czarny, with experience working in Israel, California and other worldwide locales, says Florida isn’t what some non-Floridians might think — at least as a place to grow a business. “Florida is not just a retiree state,” Czarny tells Coffee Talk. “Tampa is actually a pretty cool place.”
In another move that’s somewhat of a myth-buster, Czarny says one of several reasons the company chose Tampa was the region’s strong tech workforce. That’s something a CEO — particularly one in Czarny’s position, running a fast-growing firm with more than 1,000 customers, 350 employees and 10 offices worldwide — probably wouldn’t have said about Tampa five years ago. The company plans to hire some 100 employees in Tampa over the next three years to support the growth, according to a statement.
Czarny and OPSWAT senior leaders were familiar with Tampa, having acquired a cybersecurity software business based here, Impulse, in 2019. In 2019 the company also connected with Tampa Bay Economic Development Council officials. Those meetings led to more meetings, and, eventually a corporate headquarters relocation victory. “This is another example of how Tampa is becoming an emerging tech destination,” says Tampa EDC President and CEO Craig Richard, citing the recent expansion announcements of marketing firm Drift and IT company iO Associates, among others.
Richard adds that while Tampa, obviously, doesn’t have a Google or an Apple, there’s a lot of IT work happening within the large financial, insurance and other entities in town. “Companies are starting to see that,” Richard tells Coffee Talk.
OPSWAT is currently in a 5,000-square-foot office near the Florida State Fairgrounds facility, Impulse’s former office. The company plans to eventually expand to an office in Tampa between 25,000 and 75,000 square feet, a spokeswoman says. Czarny has more than 20 years experience in technology and cybersecurity. He founded OPSWAT in 2002 and the company has since grown to offer a wide suite of cloud-based cybersecurity products.
In addition to the workforce and growing familiarity with Tampa, Czarny says other reasons for the move include a lower cost of living and it’s easier than California to get to clients in New York and Europe. “We’ve been thinking about expanding our headquarters on the East Coast for some time,” he says. “We’re really excited to build our company here.”