Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Tampa, FL

Tampa, FL

The Sunshine State’s third largest city, Tampa is gaining momentum as one of the best cities in the country for entrepreneurs.

Tampa, FL is Florida’s third most-populous city and the 48th-most populous city in the country. The city is home to the state’s largest port, Port Tampa Bay. Nicknamed “The Big Guava” in the 1970s, Tampa combines a tropical environment with entrepreneurial opportunity. In 2019, Tampa joined two other Florida cities on WalletHub’s list of the best large cities to start a business. The city came in fifth place overall. Tampa’s high rankings don’t stop there, however. It was 11th on Business.org’s 2o19 list of the best cities for women to start a business. Additionally, the city ranked seventh on WalletHub’s 2019 list of the best cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs, and 20th in Inc.com’s list of Surge Cities.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Tampa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Cannabis Entrepreneurs & Investors is a meetup group designed to support and educate those in the legal cannabis industry.

ENGAGE calls itself a “network for evolving entrepreneurs.” To that end, they host regular meetings designed to support local entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneur Social Club is based down the road in St. Petersburg. While the weekly meetings are social events, they also serve as business networking opportunities.

StartUp Xchange is based in St. Petersburg, but is open to entrepreneurs throughout the entire Tampa Bay area. The aim of the group is to help connect entrepreneurs and innovators with one another.

As the name suggests, this group aims to help startup ideas grow into real businesses. Specifically, the group focuses on technology startups.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Every Wednesday, entrepreneurs present their early-stage businesses and hold a Q&A segment. The sessions are available to attend for free.

The Tampa Bay Chamber hosts a variety of signature events on an annual basis. For example, they host small business awards and a networking lunch for women entrepreneurs.

Tampa Bay Startup Week has been held every year since 2014. Typically, over 100 events take place across the five days of the event.


Startup Competitions:

Students at the University of Tampa can compete in the school’s annual business pitch competition. The top three finishers win cash prizes.

Since 2010, St Petersburg College has hosted annual business plan and elevator pitch competitions. Between the two competitions, a total of $10,000 is awarded to winners.

Every year during Startup Week, a Startup Showcase is held in Tampa and St. Petersburg, with three winners. In the 2019 competition, 45 startups competed.

The University of South Florida hosts several business-based competitions for students. The USF Business Plan Competition is open to students at the university, but the Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge is open to students from across the state.


Co-working Spaces:

With two locations in Tampa, CoCreativ offers several membership levels. The co-working space also offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

Since 2011, CoWorkTampa has been one of the city’s premier co-working spaces. Though it was only 2,000 square feet upon opening, the space has since expanded multiple times to over 13,000 square feet.

SOAR Co-Working offers both traditional co-working space and private office space for rent. The space also offers meeting rooms available in three sizes.

Though Tampa Bay Wave is best-known as an an accelerator, it also offers several co-working membership levels.


Maker spaces:

The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative offers maker classes to all ages as well as some digital creation tools.

Across the bay in St. Petersburg, St. Pete Makers provides manufacturing resources as well as classes for creators. They also offer special discounts for teachers and students.

Tampa Hackerspace is a non-profit workshop that provides tools and equipment for small-scale manufacturing. The organization also hosts Open Make Nights on Tuesdays that are open to everyone.



CO.STARTERS is a nine-week incubator program run by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. After finishing the course, graduates are rewarded with two months of free office space as well as other valuable support resources.

The Hillsborough County Economic Development Department runs the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, which organizes a number of resources to support local small business owners.

The University of South Florida Student Innovation Incubator provides student entrepreneurs with coaching and mentorship as well as access to valuable business support resources.

The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator is run by USF, but is open to technology companies from around the entire area.

Incubators vs. Accelerators: Which Best Fits Your Needs?



The Minority Business Accelerator is a program organized by the Tampa Bay Chamber, and is designed to support businesses led by black and hispanic entrepreneurs.

A program organized by the University of Tampa, the Spartan Accelerator program works with current students as well as recent graduates. The program also works with early-stage startups from the community outside of the university.

The Tampa Bay Innovation Center Accelerator is a 12-week program that works with tech startups in the region.

Tampa Bay Wave runs a number of accelerator programs to support the local entrepreneurship community, and several focus on underserved communities. For example, Tampa Bay Wave runs programs called TechWomen Rising and TechDiversity, among others.

Find the Accelerator that’s right for you



St. Petersburg College’s Career & Entrepreneurship Center offers a certificate, Associate Degree and Bachelor Degree in entrepreneurship.

The University of Tampa offers both a major and minor in entrepreneurship, as well as a Master of Science degree in entrepreneurship. Additionally, the school offers an MBA program with a concentration in entrepreneurship.

In addition to incubator and accelerator programs, USF offers both graduate and undergraduate programs in entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Ballast Point Ventures is a company that aims to invest between $5-$12 million in companies located throughout the southeast United States as well as the state of Texas.

Florida Funders is a combination venture capital fund and angel investor network. They work to fund and otherwise support early-stage tech startups.

Since 1999, Topmark Partners invests in high-growth, technology-enabled startups. Before they changed their name, they were known as Stonehenge Growth Equity.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Florida Trend is not focused exclusively on the Tampa Bay area, but it covers business news from around the entire state. Additionally, it offers several free newsletters with the biggest headlines.

The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative offers a business newsletter. Specifically, the newsletter contains information on free resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the area.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal offers a number of business-based newsletters. For example, those interested can subscribe to newsletters focusing on news, or local events.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Tampa not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Augusta, GeorgiaChattanooga, Tennessee, Salt Lake City, Utah

Article by Quinn Pilkey


Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.