Tampa Bay’s startup scene is entering 2023 a bit bigger, a bit more balanced and a lot is more widely known than in prior years.
The region has had pockets of growing successful companies across the board. But the last year has brought a slew of new talent — and industries — to Tampa Bay.
From agtech to the metaverse, healthtech to helicopters, the region has no shortage of companies on track for greatness. We’ve whittled them down to 23 companies we’re watching in the new year based on past reporting, talks with industry veterans and what is trending in the greater tech world.
Check them out below.
What they do: Spontivly is a SaaS company that allows organizations to gain insights into their community. It launched in 2019, initially as a way to connect international students on their college campuses. The company has now morphed into offering real-time analytics for a company’s data, combining tools into one platform.
Why we’re watching: The newly-transplanted St. Pete company made a splash when it arrived from Canada at the start of 2022. The co-founders soon closed a $1.6 million pre-seed round in January, followed by an undisclosed investment from “Shark Tank’s” Mark Cuban and local firm TampaBay.Ventures in July. After working with local startup hubs Embarc Collective and the Tampa Bay Wave, it has become a standout in an increasingly bustling startup scene.
What they do: The Tampa-based company provides technology, testing, managed services and data and analytics to companies. It works with Fortune 500 companies, including JLL, FedEx and Silicon Valley darling Snowflake. It rebranded from Bluenet in 2021.
Why we’re watching: The company is one of the fastest-growing in the region and hit a $100 million valuation after receiving an undisclosed investment in March. It also has steadily grown its C-suite, hiring its first-ever chief revenue officer in October. That could be partly due to the plans of its co-founder and CEO Kerem Koca, who has aspirations to go public in the next three years.
What they do: The Lakeland-based startup offers a “smart ticket” system through blockchain. Eventgoers can easily access pre-and post-event benefits and promotions while cutting down on fraud. It also simplifies ticket sharing with friends.
Why we’re watching: The NFT space is still one of the most-discussed — and debated — in the startup world. But it has emerged as a potential savior for musicians, who have become increasingly frustrated with the monopoly of Ticketmaster and its dynamic pricing. Beyond trying to pioneer disruption in the industry, Relic Tickets CEO Hunter Abramson has become one of the evangelists of the Lakeland startup community.
What they do: The Tampa-based company is the “Uber” for staffing nurses, meaning facilities — predominantly long-term care units — can use the software to order a nurse if they’re short-staffed, a significant issue in the industry.
Why we’re watching: Gale Healthcare kicked off 2022 with a $60 million in funding from investment giant FTV Capital. The company employs more than 250 locals and at the end of 2022, moved into a space nearly five times the size of its previous office to accommodate more growth.
What they do: The Tampa-based startup provides a platform to connect creators, or “influencers,” to brands, helping the companies more easily reach their target audiences.
Why we’re watching: The company closed a $9.5 million seed round in August led by Clearwater-based Deuterium Capital Management. It works with more than 675 brands and 11,000 influencers, and counts over 35,000 app downloads. The co-founders were also named to this year’s Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the marketing and advertising sector.
AeroVanti Air Club
What they do: The Sarasota-based company offers a luxury jet club. It was founded as a charter aviation club in July 2021 and offers access to the jet fleet and services, such as catering and transportation requests.
Why we’re watching: 2022 was an exceptional year for growth at AeroVanti. The company raised $9.75 million in July, followed by a $100 million investment in October. It acquired Arizona-based Marjet Aviation in March for an undisclosed amount. It also closed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December, making the company the team’s exclusive aviation partner.
What they do: The Sarasota-based company offers a SaaS product for flooring retailers to streamline operations and boost profits.
Why we’re watching: The company closed a $60 million Series D in September and was mainly under the radar before the announcement. Broadlume used the funding to acquire five companies within the last year, with plans for a few more in the coming year. And while company CEO Jim Saunders resides in New York, roughly half of the company’s 180 employees work in the Sarasota region, making it a sizable local employer.
Fan Data Insights
What they do: The Tampa-based company lets athletic departments gather data that typically live in silos, such as donations, sales activity platforms and wealth screening platforms. There is a focus on the top 150 athletic programs in the nation.
Why we’re watching: The company was founded in 2021 by Ryan Dorrell, a serial entrepreneur best known for co-founding Tampa-based software company AgileThought, which was acquired in 2019. In his latest venture, Dorrell will focus on an entirely new industry, which is quickly evolving as athletic departments continue to grow across the nation amid a post-NIL ruling which allows individual athletes to cash in on their name, image and likeness.
What they do: The company offers a technology that boosts the efficiency of phosphorus fertilizers, ultimately cutting down on pollution.
Why we’re watching: The company moved to the region in May from Pennsylvania, opening an office in downtown St. Petersburg. The agtech startup is unique to the region but could serve as a catalyst to more in the industry flocking to town, especially with Florida’s long-standing agriculture industry. Phospholutions’ CEO Hunter Swisher is also building a significant track record, getting tapped for Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the social impact category.
What they do: The Tampa-based company connects venues, that have space to sell with vendors, that have items to sell, in an online marketplace.
Why we’re watching: The company’s CEO, April Caldwell, has been steadily getting her name out there over the last few years. She won $1,500 in a pitch contest at State College of Florida in 2020 and participated in SCF’s first-ever Veterans Business Incubator program. Caldwellhas spent the last four years building the company and subsequently getting ingrained in the community; she is part of both Tampa Bay Wave and Embarc Collective, and Florida Polytechnic University students helped build part of FayVen’s tech as part of their senior capstone project.
What they do: The Tampa-based company lets users buy NFTs that give them access to experiences with athletes. It’s a tiered system, with the higher-valued NFTs garnering things like private meet-and-greets and the lower tiers getting access to things like autographed merchandise and digital trading cards.
Why we’re watching: It’s a splashy company; not only is FanField in the ever-fluctuating NFT space but it is also co-founded by former NFL player Michael Vick. The company’s co-founder and CEO Trevor Paladino plan to break into the metaverse space soon, along with the gaming side of things, such as a passing academy that is gamified and headed up by Vick.
What they do: Offers an artificial intelligence technology for organizations, typically used in the “How can I help you?” pop-up on a company’s app or website. Major League Baseball, Google and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik back the company. The company counts 400-plus customers, including the Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Amalie Arena and ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
Why we’re watching: CEO Don White quietly moved his company from New York to Tampa in July. With a roster of big-name investors and clients alike, the move to Tampa — which White called “the nation’s largest, smallest innovation hub” — could serve as a catalyst for the region’s future growth by bringing in-demand jobs and another home-grown success.
What they do: The Tampa-based company, initially known as Signature Lacrosse, was originally founded to create more affordable lacrosse equipment while maintaining the quality to further the sport’s reach. In 2021, the company pivoted to launch a technology allowing parents to directly order their uniforms — as well as team merchandise and some sports equipment — in a way that lets the apparel be made on-demand and entirely in the U.S.
Why we’re watching: With the re-pivot, more than 200 undisclosed investors made a $2 million investment into the company in June. Now that the technology is officially patented, CEO Dan Soviero plans to expand beyond lacrosse into field hockey, soccer and basketball. The University of Tampa graduate was on track to sign 300 programs by the end of 2022 and with the new year expects even faster growth.
What they do: The Tampa-based company, founded by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Carl Nassib, connects users, who could be seeking volunteer or donor opportunities, with nonprofits through its social media platform.
Why we’re watching: It’s compelling and unusual to have an active NFL linebacker also working a side hustle as a startup CEO. But Nassib is not resting on his laurels. He inked a Series A deal in November with California-based Financial Finesse Ventures, becoming the first portfolio company for the fintech-focused venture arm of Financial Finesse.
What they do: The Tampa-based company, formerly known as CyberCNS, offers a vulnerability management tool, helping managed service providers, or MSPs, identify vulnerabilities in their client’s assets.
Why we’re watching: The company was the brainchild of former ConnectWise employees, which were part of one of the region’s largest exit deals when the company sold for a reported $1.5 billion in 2019. The co-founders plan to use their knowledge from ConnectWise to create one of the region’s next great tech companies, mainly tapping into the local talent pool from Tampa Bay universities. ConnectSecure is an example of the building blocks needed to create a booming tech hub and could serve as one of the foundational pieces.
What they do: The company, originally known as Verapy, has a new iteration called Recovr Health. It provides virtual reality technology to make physical therapy more enjoyable. It offers a virtual reality headset and an iPad component for more ease of use for physical therapists. It’s also now entirely focused on the pediatric sector.
Why we’re watching: Verapy was inching toward the peak of success before the Covid-19 pandemic, and now Recovr Health’s co-founders are taking lessons learned to make their second attempt even stronger. They are off to a strong start — the program was chosen for the famed Techstars program in Dallas. That program, coupled with good timing and the co-founders’ deep connections with the Tampa Bay Wave, could bring the success that eluded the co-founders in their first attempt.
What they do: The Tampa-based company is best known for its cellular-based monitoring products, including iGlucose. That is a cellular-enabled glucometer that takes a reading from a drop of blood and transmits the information to care teams through a band of AT&T’s cellular network.
Why we’re watching: The company saw quadrupled growth last year, opening a new headquarters in a 5,200-square-foot space in the Sweetwater Business Center in Tampa.
What they do: The Tampa-based startup offers a data and subscription platform for insurance companies to clean and manage health care providers’ data.
Why we’re watching: The company first launched from stealth mode in February, making headlines again when it acquired a local health care company in June. Despite the company’s infancy, it already has more than 50 employees and råcked up national partnerships. With 2023 marking the first full year for the company, its growth trajectory will be one to watch.
What they do: A Sarasota-based B2B SaaS company launched in 2018 with a specific focus on vulnerability management.
Why we’re watching: The company had one of the largest fundings of the year, snagging $20 million in March led by New York-based Lead Edge Capital. CEO Steve Carter previously acknowledged the company is under the radar, attributing it partially to having no Florida clients in its roster. Instead, Carter has an international focus and counts Toyota, Qantas Airline and National Australia Bank among his clients. But with the funding comes the spotlight, making Nucleus Security one we’re keeping a close eye on.
What they do: The St. Pete-based company offers a digital care clinic for women throughout their life span, from puberty to perimenopause. It provides in-network therapy, medication management and coaching. It has partnered with industry giants Cigna and Optum and offers services fromphysicians, therapists and coaches who are all trained in mental health.
Why we’re watching: The platform launched in October 2021 and its two psychiatrist-turned-entrepreneur-cofounders has not slowed down since. The company got into the Tampa Bay Wave program along with the prestigious Y Combinator program and is in the process of closing a pre-seed round.
What they do: The Tampa-based company offers a marketplace connecting the top metaverse builders to brands in need. It allows companies and brand agencies from all industries to reach out directly to the metaverse builders. It also offers a more white glove-type service in which SandStorm works with the brands and manages the relationship with the builders.
Why we’re watching: McGarry is a Silicon Valley success story worth watching. He sold his first company to PayPal’s co-founder, Max Levchin, and has equally high ambitions for Sandstorm. The company launched at Austin’s SXSW in March 2022 and has raised more than $2.5 million. Plus, the company is boosting the region’s presence in the metaverse industry with a focus on hiring locally.
What they do: The Tampa-based company offers a line of cordless small kitchen appliances like toasters, blenders and mixers. Unlike other cordless appliances that run on batteries, Kitchenery uses a patented technology that makes them entirely self-sustainable.
Why we’re watching: The company has spent its beta phase working with industry giants Stanley Black & Decker and Techstars and with 2023 comes the promise to fully launch. Kitchenery CEO Akshay Bhuva previously told Tampa Bay Inno he is working on manufacturing the product in Q1 of this year, which could catapult the company into its next growth phase.
What they do: The Tampa-based company develops products in the robotics and artificial intelligence spaces, with a large focus on the military sector. They’re best known for providing “smart spaces,” which bring data visualization hubs into a physical space.
Why we’re watching: Tesseract moved from Kansas City to Tampa in 2021, tapping the city as its “military headquarters.” It has since deepened its relationship with MacDill Air Force Base. While the military-focused contracts are largely under wraps due to the secretive nature of the industry, Tesseract has proved it is a force within the space.
UPDATE: FIVE STARTUPS TO WATCH 2022. How are they faring?
Slide: The insurance technology company ended 2021 by raising $100 million and in 2022, acquired $400 million in premiums from Orlando-based St. Johns Insurance Co. Slide provides services covering the entire insurance process, using artificial intelligence, machine learning and data to let users choose their coverage for budgets and unique needs. According to the company, it has $400 million in annual revenue.
RxLive: The telehealth company closed a $5 million Series A in July, which it will use to double in size in the next year. It currently has a dozen employees and a presence in 30 states. Its headquarters is in downtown St. Petersburg and it is actively hiring locally.
Rewst: The software company launched in 2021 and spent 2022 building, raising $4 million in August and another $21.5 million in November. Now, founder Aharon Chernin is heads-down on product development and building his 20-plus-person team.
iApartments: Roughly a year after launching from stealth mode, the proptech company doubled its headcount, with 40 full-time employees, and nearly tripled its office space with an expanded headquarters.
Neptune Flood: The St. Pete-based insurtech company is one of the fastest growing in the region, with 2022’s Hurricane Ian providing a prime example to industry skeptics on the need for a risk modeling algorithm.
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Tampa Bay’s startup scene is entering 2023 a bit bigger, a bit more balanced and a lot is more widely known than in prior years.