By Nadja Sayej
Want a sign Tampa is becoming a tech hub—so called Silicon Valley in the South? Park yourself on a barstool or park bench and make conversation with a stranger or two. Chances are you’ll find they’ve just recently moved, excited both by the booming city Tampa has become and for high-tech job prospects on offer. There’s opportunity in the air.
You’ll find these folks want to talk crypto. Or cyber security. VPNs. FinTech. Logistics software. The apps their companies are developing. They work at places called Rapid7, Procore Technologies, and KnowBe4. Pocket Network. ReliaQuest. Imprivita. Wise. Arrive. Verkada. Galatea. (We could go on.) They are myriad, this new Tampa techy.
Another clue can be found in a back issue of Forbes, from August of 2021. For it was then Tampa landed atop the storied biz mag’s list of Emerging Tech Cities in the US. That’s right. Number one.
Even two years ago Tampa’s tech industry, according to the article, had been “exploding for several years now,” and reported there were over 50 software and IT companies in the city. Tampa was responsible for over 25% of tech jobs in the Sunshine state, even outperforming Miami in ‘21. It’s only ballooned since.
The growth isn’t an accident.
High-profile investors have migrated into the area of late, seeking out new ideas and tech leaders, in part because of local development. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, for one, along with his company Strategic Property Partners (SPP) has transformed the city’s downtown in the form of Water Street Tampa, a walkable, pre-certified WELL Community neighborhood they always believed could lead the Tampa’s tech-savvy future.
Water Street Tampa, according to their site, is “an entirely unique urban energy. Designed to deepen people’s interactions with the cityscape, the natural environment and each other.” There, walkable streets connect homes, offices, retail shops, and hotels.
“People are moving here from New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles,” says David Bevirt, Executive Vice President of Corporate Leasing and Strategy at SPP, of Water Street. “We’re seeing over 900 people a day move into Florida.”
Bevirt says attracting tech—its entrepreneurs and educated workforce—was always part of the idea. “When we started working on this project with its master planning, we knew we were building something special,” he says.
Many of the corporations moving to Tampa are seeking something different, Bevirt adds. “There’s definitely an uptick in technology firms; we’re seeing it in fintech, biotech, and financial services, and this is proving that this is a good spot for supporting the robust growth that we’re seeing.”
Even beyond his spearheading the development of Water Street, Vinik himself has been investing in Tampa’s tech future with his Embarc Collective initiative, which aims to be a startup hub to help the community “build bold, scalable, thriving companies.”
Much like Bevirt, Allie Felix, Vice President of Platform at Embarc Collective, sees many new faces moving in from all across the country. Embarc Collective, which features investment from Vinik, aims to be a startup hub that helps the community build tech business. As such, she speaks to waves of new arrivals and techies everyday. “Each person brings their experience and networks that will make a long-term, positive impact on our tech community,” she says
Interestingly, Bevirt says it’s that kind of compounding skilled labor that is really driving where tech companies are going. “For us in Tampa, it’s the chicken and the egg; companies come here if the talent is here, and the talent comes here if they know the companies are moving here,” he says. “It’s so simple but it’s the heart of our growth.”
CoinFlip is one such chicken. (Or is it an egg?) It’s a fintech platform for crypto that recently opened its corporate office—which it calls a “Crypto Experience Center”—in Tampa. It’s the first-of-its-kind destination in the U.S. and will educate the community about cryptocurrency and purchasing digital currencies with the company’s on-site Bitcoin ATMs.
“We’re on a mission to make crypto more accessible and approachable by offering free classes and appointments with our in-house ‘Crypto Guides,’” says CoinFlip CEO and co-founder Ben Weiss. “Tampa is an emerging tech hub and we’re thrilled to be a part of its rapidly expanding crypto community.”
Weiss says they were initially attracted to Tampa due to its top tech talent and crypto-embracing attitude, and that an office at Sparkman Wharf quickly revealed itself as the perfect location for the company to plant its seed.
“This office tower is a place many tech companies and businesses call home,” he says of the camaraderie he and CoinFlip have found since arriving. “We knew we could continue to grow and bring crypto education to such a vibrant community.”
Because tech workers and their families are relocating to Tampa, it’s helped provide demand, explains Weiss.
Of course, that demand is also borne of Tampa’s enviable climate on the Gulf Coast, beautiful beaches, and year-round sunshine. “Tampa is quickly becoming one of the most desirable places to live due to several factors,” says.Anne-Sophie Petit-Frere, a luxury realtor and reality star on Netflix’s Selling Tampa. In addition to the above she cites “the cost of living, no state income tax, and the growing nightlife scene” as notable attractions.
“The tech scene is moving to Tampa because it’s cost-effective for some employers, and they’re also able to retain employees by introducing them to a well-balanced work, live and play lifestyle that Tampa offers,” adds Petit-Frere.
Weiss agrees, and believes in Tampa’s potential. “We’re confident that industry leaders will keep looking to Tampa as the next tech hub. The opportunities will continue to grow for both the businesses and the people residing here.”.
Felix of Embarc explains their dedication to advancing Tampa Bay’s tech ecosystem. “Whether your goal is to discuss incentives with local elected officials, meet a potential corporate customer, or join community events, you are welcomed to a seat at the table.”