For the past two years, I worked at Pack Health, a healthcare startup in Birmingham, Alabama. In that time, I did the work of a UX designer, software developer, data analyst, voice-over artist (someone had to do it), and engineering manager. I don't know if there's any substitute for that type of hands-on, learn-as-you-go experience—what better option is there for someone with a generalist's skillset and a desire to create?
I was fortunate to have that opportunity thanks to the Venture for America fellowship, which diverts young grads away from cities like New York or San Francisco to work for and learn from experienced entrepreneurs in cities with a growing community of startups. One of the many things I learned as a Fellow is that we should strive to create opportunities for ourselves and others. That's a core part of VFA's value proposition: young talent acquires hands-on startup experience, and growing entrepreneurial ecosystems acquire more of the raw material of innovation.
Although living and working in Birmingham was a valuable experience, I could never shake a desire to return to Tampa and do the same thing here. I was born and raised in Tampa, so why shouldn't I contribute to it? Every time I came back to visit, I'd see how the region, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, continued to grow. Even though I came down every few months, there was always something new; it felt like I was watching a time-lapse video of buildings and businesses springing up out of the ground.
Last December, as my wife and I drove down I-75 to see our families for Christmas, we began to talk about the possibility of moving back. We didn't have anything lined up here, but we could probably work remote and freelance if need be. Despite that uncertainty, our confidence increased as we made our way south. By the time we passed Ocala, our minds were made up. We moved back three months later, in March.
I thought my contribution to the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Tampa would be the same contribution I made in Birmingham—showing up, working hard to help grow a startup, and sharing what I learned. I'm happy to say that as the third team member at Embarc Collective, I now have the opportunity to help make Tampa/St. Pete a prime destination for diverse startup talent to make an impact.
It's a big goal to work towards, and there's a lot that goes into making it happen. At Embarc Collective, a big part of my job is to measure our impact and build a common language to discuss our progress (those of you who know me realize how much of a dream job this is). As part of that effort, our community survey asked members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem what their biggest challenges are, and what resources they think would have the most impact. I'm currently digging into those responses, and while there's a lot of room for improvement in our region, there's also a lot to be optimistic about.
If you're interested in those results, or if you're generally interested in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tampa, you should sign up for updates here. Stay tuned!