In partnership with the University of South Florida and the St. Pete Economic Development Corporation, Tampa Bay Wave’s FinTech|X Accelerator will again draw innovative and disruptive fintech startups to St. Petersburg for a highly specialized 90-day accelerator program.
Tampa Bay Wave at Thrive DTSP is just one of the top-notch accelerators in the region. In summer 2023, the ARK Innovation Center will open in the new Tampa Bay Innovation Center in south St. Pete. In 2021, ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood chose to relocate the innovation-focused investment firm’s headquarters to St. Pete and to invest in the Innovation Center because of the city’s commitment to technology, science, and innovation.
“ARK is not a traditional Wall Street asset management firm, and we are looking forward to breaking the mold further by relocating to St. Petersburg, a city investing in technology, science, and innovation.”
Co-working for Flexibility and Community
St. Pete boasts a wide range of local and national co-working spaces that provide flexibility and opportunity for startups. When PandaDoc opened its East Coast headquarters in St. Petersburg in 2017, it started at Station House before moving into its own office space. PandaDoc has since reached unicorn status with a $1B valuation.
Sometimes, co-working space is a springboard to larger office space. Retail media tech firm CitrusAd opened its U.S. headquarters in 2020 in Thrive DTSP because the centrally-located space provided flexibility. Since opening, the company has hired about 60 new employees in St. Petersburg, prompting an expansion to larger space.
“We need to be in a vibrant city that believes in and invests in community and in innovation, all wrapped in an amazing quality of life.”
Tampa Bay’s Tech Scene
Tampa Bay’s tech scene is growing by leaps and bounds. In 2021, the Tampa Bay region was the #1 region in Florida for tech employee relocation and #6 in the nation. Companies like data analytics fintech startup Intrinio have watched St. Pete’s tech community blossom in the past decade. Organizations like Tampa Bay Tech, The Mainframe, Synapse Florida, Tampa Bay accelerators like the Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Tampa Bay Wave, and startup hub Embarc Collective all support and nurture the entrepreneurial tech community.
Venture capital investment continues to grow in Florida’s emerging tech market, which saw an uptick in 2022. Companies like St. Pete’s LunaJoy Health, Lonestar Data Co. and Viirtue all recently had oversubscribed funding rounds, while Spontivly has raised funds from high-profile investors like Mark Cuban and LOI Ventures (headed by Hootsuite’s founder). There is also increased local funding from VC firms like TampaBay.Ventures, Florida Funders, and Seedfunders.
Deeply Rooted in Innovation
St. Petersburg’s startup community is deeply rooted in innovation. St. Pete’s transformation from a sleepy Southern city to a thriving entrepreneurial powerhouse came out of its focus on the arts. Artists brought their creativity to the visual and performing arts, and this creativity drew additional creative types who applied their innovation to coding rather than canvas. In 2016, the city created an Innovation District to harness the power of collaboration through proximity. Two companies that chose to “Become St. Pete” are now working together: data analytics firm PVM, Inc. (which relocated to St. Pete in 2022) is partnering with tech defense company Pole Star Global (which opened its U.S. headquarters here in 2020) to enhance the U.S. Coast Guard's Track Management System to improve maritime security.
This spirit of innovation is what draws entrepreneurs to the Sunshine City. Kenny Lauer, chief strategy officer at Relic Tickets says, “I have lived and worked in Silicon Valley almost my whole career. I know what innovation looks and feels like. St. Pete has an innovative spirit coursing through its veins. To me, when a city demonstrates this spirit in addition to great resources and a crystal-clear understanding of what a startup needs to grow and scale, this is the place to be.”
“I have lived and worked in Silicon Valley almost my whole career. I know what innovation looks and feels like. St. Pete has an innovative spirit coursing through its veins. To me, when a city demonstrates this spirit in addition to great resources and a crystal-clear understanding of what a startup needs to grow and scale, this is the place to be.”
Great Place to Live and Work
The Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater region is an appealing place to live and work, and has been ranked the:
- #5 place to live in the U.S.
- #5 relocation destination in the U.S.
- #4 cutting-edge metro for startups
- #1 place for work-life balance and mental health
- #1 best-run city in Florida
This helps startups to attract the best talent from around the country.
Tax Benefits of Florida in Warm Community
One reason entrepreneurs are drawn to St. Petersburg is Florida’s tax structure. There is no personal income tax or capital gains tax, so founders in Florida are not burdened with capital gains when they exit.
At the same time, St. Petersburg is a genuinely warm and inclusive community that repeatedly attains a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, and includes intentional inclusivity and equity as two of the City’s “We Are St. Pete” principles to make sure everyone has a seat at the table and that growth benefits the entire community.
“Each time we visited, we experienced the community 'bear hug.' The closeness of the community is incredibly inspiring and has motivated me to get more involved on a local level, which has led to a lot of great connections.”