Tampa Bay newcomers — and there certainly were many of them in the last year — discovered plenty of existing talent in the region as the talent pool continued to expand in 2021.
The founders made a mark. There were startup launches, millions secured in funding, and industries flipped entirely on its head. But the work is just beginning for many of them, who have plans to further thrive in 2022.
Tampa Bay Inno has rounded up the startups to watch in the coming year, based on past reporting and talks we've had with industry players. We will be honoring the companies at our upcoming event, Feb. 14. You can get tickets here.
Dive into the 22 startups to watch in 2022.
Muirgheal Montecalvo, Vacayou founder and CEO
What it does: A wellness-focused travel startup that works with several properties after vetting each one to make an easy-to-use site pairing its technology with a concierge team. "What's interesting is many more people realize the importance of staying active and well," said Muirgheal Montecalvo, Vacayou founder and CEO. "I couldn’t have asked for better timing. With wellness and active travel, people want to get out and get a mental reset."
Why they're one to watch: The company closed a $3.3 million seed round with participation from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. That, coupled with both Covid-19and traveling on the rise makes the company one to watch as we follow its trajectory in the new year.
Anchor Yacht Rentals
Zach Hatraf, founder and CEO of Anchor Yacht Rentals
Headquartered: St. Petersburg
What it does: Zach Hatraf, the company's founder, launched the company in 2017 as an "Uber for boats" after his best friend was killed in a boating accident at the popular Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Roughly a year later, he pivoted to yachts and now offers a patent-pending technology platform compliant with the U.S. Coast Guard. The platform connects private yacht owners, licensed captains and customers looking to rent yachts under one roof.
Why they're one to watch: The company closed a $2.5 million seed round in August which will be used to expand to 12 cities by mid-2022. Hatraf hopes to raise a $15 million to $20 million Series A by 2022.
Black Stock Footage
Black Stock Footage is a Tampa startup aiming to up the representation in stock video content.
What it does: Co-founder Imani Lee is in the process of officially launching the company's beta phase with his co-founder and chief communications officer, Zebrina Edgerton. The company will provide a platform that allows video creators to access stock video focused on Black representation, something Lee saw was lacking when he was a freelance videographer.
Why they're one to watch: The company was one of 10 in the nation that won a $25,000 grant from the NAACP and Daymond John, an entrepreneur and host of ABC's "Shark Tank." The grant comes three months after Black Stock Footage won another $25,000, this time from Miami Endeavor's Pitch Competition.
What it does: The company, which expects to launch to the public this quarter, is in the insurance technology industry and uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and data to let users choose their coverage for budgets and unique needs.
Why they're one to watch: Slide was founded by Bruce Lucas, who previously founded Heritage Insurance (NYSE: HRTG). The company kicked off its start by raising a $100 million Series A. It's a large first funding round for any new company, let alone one in Tampa Bay which has a still-burgeoning tech scene. We will be watching to see if the large bet pays off.
Wind Talker Innovations
Wind Talker Innovations Founder and CEO Ryan Luther
What it does: A networking company specializing in distributing networks. It offers a software solution that sits on top of existing networks, allowing faster and more secure messaging.
Why they're one to watch: The company is launching its product in Q1 of this year and most recently raised a $34 million Series B-2 round. It plans to seek a Series C toward the end of this year. Wind Talker has roughly 85 employees, with 40 of those in the Lakeland area. Plans are to keep growing.
TruState - Leah Del Percio and Tara Faquir
What it does: The company aims to help streamline and automate the estate administration process. The group offers a flat rate to help close an estate, as compared to a lawyer. Trustate works with "preferred partners" that range from banks to financial advisers and estate lawyers, although any customer can sign up for their services.
Why they're one to watch: It closed a $1.8 million seed round in December, after being tapped by prestigious Chicago-based accelerator 1871.
"We're definitely well-positioned to scale in a pretty tremendous way," co-founder Leah Del Percio said.
The WaterCube system is about the size of a shipping container.
Headquartered: Tampa, after relocating from Kansas City in February 2021
What it does: The company says its system takes the condensation from the air and, with the help of technology, creates new, clean drinking water with it. The drinking water can be used in hurricane relief scenarios, military operations and developing countries.
Why they're one to watch: The company came into the city with big claims: It has raised $10 million with the goal to raise another $200 million, it wants to grow from 20 to 125 employees in the next five years and expects to launch its WaterCube in San Antonio's port early this year. We'll be watching to see what comes to fruition.
RxLive provides access to pharmacists via its telehealth platform.
Headquartered: St. Petersburg
What it does: RxLive provides patients with 30- to 45-minute remote consultations with a pharmacist. After the consultation, the pharmacist connects with the physician’s office to offer recommendations for medications, taking into account things like the patient’s condition, drug interactions, side effects and costs. It spans more than 28 states.
Why they're one to watch: As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, investments in telehealth are also reaching a peak. RxLive raised $1.9 million in 2021 and previously told the Tampa Bay Business Journal it hoped to hit 100 employees and most likely open a seed round in Q1 of 2022 with a goal of $3 million to $5 million.
What it does: A software as a service company helping managed service providers with automation and relying less on manual processes. It is currently in stealth mode and will launch in Q1 this year.
Why they're one to watch: Its founder, Aharon Chernin, previously founded Perch Security, which was then acquired by ConnectWise. With his latest venture, Chernin wants to avoid a quick exit pipeline and instead create a company with staying power.
"Exiting a company, while it seems like fun, it's not fun," he said. "All the people who work for you are your family, and [an exit] makes it so you don't go to work anymore to see your family. I want to keep it around as long as possible."
Headquartered: St. Petersburg
What it does: A web-based tool that helps guide students in their career development and companies in their workforce development.
Why they're one to watch: Sheffie Robinson recently relocated to the region after Google tapped her for its Black Founders Fund, which comes with $200,000 from the tech giant. It was also part of the Tampa Bay Wave's Tech Women Rising Cohort. It plans to raise a pre-seed, then a seed round, by the end of the year.
What it does: Founded by two former Tampa General Hospital employees, the company provides a health care system to improve gaps and delays in information flow. The company released three tool kits specifically to act as a command center and help address coronavirus-related challenges.
Why they're one to watch: The Tampa-based health tech company partnered with the University of South Florida's College of Nursing and College of Engineering in 2021 in an effort to boost high quality talent in the region.
"The big ultimate goal is we want Edgility Labs to be what the Bell Labs (a New York City research company) was in its glory days," Edgility CEO Balaji Ramadoss said. "Which is creating scientific research in the region and beyond."
What it does: Founded in 2019 and officially unveiled in 2021, the company offers software and hardware solutions to help both apartment residents and apartment complex owners. Users can access smart locks, smart thermostats and other modern amenities typically only seen in homes.
Why they're one to watch: Its three co-founders are serial entrepreneurs who have long been in the local tech scene; they have more than 40 full-time employees and closed an eight-figure seed round with the goal to close a Series A in the near future.
What it does: The company was founded in 2015 and provides 25 tools in its virtual health platform, spanning from telehealth services to online appointment scheduling and virtual appointment check-ins.
Why they're one to watch: The company had one of the biggest fundings of the year, securing a $25 million Series B after more than doubling its growth in 2021. The company expects to balloon to more than 100 employees by this year.
"Covid put everything on steroids, not because people needed the tech more now than before, they just more understand what it meant now," Qure4u founder Monica Bolbjerg said.
Headquartered: St. Petersburg
What it does: An insurance technology startup that uses artificial intelligence to better estimate flood insurance claims.
Why they're one to watch: Trevor Burgess is the former CEO of C1 Bank, which he helped take public in 2014. The company made its first acquisition in 2021 and plans to expand its offerings to the evacuation insurance space.
"Because we're a profitable company, it allows us to do things like acquisitions in year four of operating, where most startup companies are on a different path," Burgess said.
What it does: A fintech company that refinances existing student loans using a "smart income share agreement." The agreement is debt-free, has affordable payments and provides a cash return.
Why they're one to watch: The company, which was founded in 2018, was one of 11 startups in the coveted Techstars Boulder program. It also partnered with Netcapital for a crowdfunding campaign.
What it does: Offers schools an augmented reality app to help bilingual students learn while remaining in the classroom among their peers.
Why they're one to watch: It is co-founded by a University of South Florida professor, along with a tech veteran. The duo has participated in IBM, Amazon Web Services and Impact Ventures programs, and secured funding from the National Science Foundation. It has also been tapped to pitch at the national Startup of the Year conference, which will be held in Tampa at the end of January.
What it does: Resquared offers a platform to help both property owners and brokers fill empty spaces with local businesses and allows the owners to reach out to small businesses with tailored messaging.
Why they're one to watch: Co-founders Tyler Carlson and Griffin Morris have previous institutional knowledge of startups — the pair met when Carlson was vice president of sales at Tampa sales startup SiteZeus and Griffin was a data partner of the company. They were part of the prestigious, Silicon Valley-based Y-Combinator accelerator program, which comes with a six-figure investment.
Headquartered: St. Petersburg
What it does: The company offers a software as a service platform, which protects sensitive information across multiple environments concurrently. The platform includes video, email and chat functions that can work simultaneously without the threat of being hacked.
Why they're one to watch: The company launched July 2021 and in the same announcement, said it raised $5 million. It planned to more than double its employees and, with Covid-19 accelerating the need for sophisticated cybersecurity systems for many, expects product interest — and perhaps investment interest — to grow in the new year.
What it does: Offers an "investor discovery platform." The company's aim is to appeal to both novice investors and longtime traders. It offers a research and investor education platform, as well as more advanced investors custom alerts, algorithms, content channels and market indicators.
Why they're one to watch: The company launched from stealth mode in April 2021. Founder Jonathan Gibbons is a serial entrepreneur: His last company, Compass HRM, was acquired in 2017 by publicly traded Texas company Asure (NASDAQ: ASUR). The company raised a $325,000 seed round, according to Crunchbase. Gibbons previously said vig.io will seek a Series A.
What it does: The company uses both hardware and software to predict oil and gas pipeline leaks before they occur.
Why they're one to watch: It was accepted into the Chevron Technology Ventures Catalyst Program and raised an oversubscribed $10 million. The company plans to expand in both hires and funding in the coming year.
"We can be very systematic to how we approach things now," CEO Meade Lewis said. "It's exciting all around; it won’t just be pressure, pressure, pressure. We get to sit back and breathe occasionally when we run laps."
What it does: JetBridge has a twofold purpose. It provides a network of seasoned engineers to mid-market and enterprise companies while helping engineers break into the startup investing scene as well.
Why they're one to watch: In addition to growing his own company, founder John Sung King has the lofty goal to bring a local company public in the next decade. He also plans to set an example by investing $1 million a year into Tampa software companies "indefinitely," starting off with Tampa-based Panther.
What it does: Uses artificial intelligence to help e-commerce companies. Its AI technology adapts to users in real-time, tailoring product recommendations based on the user's behavior.
Why they're one to watch: The company grew 400% in its first quarter and raised a $7.5 million seed round in March 2021.
“E-commerce is growing rapidly and XGen is aligned with that macro trend; they’re the element missing in the e-commerce tech stack,” Tom Wallace, managing partner at Florida Funders, said in a previous statement. “XGen's ... personalization approach to make an individual’s specific needs and preferences a priority is what both consumers and marketers not only want but need.”