What do entrepreneurs look like? Especially tech entrepreneurs? Many people might conjure up visions of young college grads in flip flops with laptops hanging out at a hip urban coffee shop. To add to the stereotype, many people might also assume a certain gender and skin tone. On some measures, such as the demographics of entrepreneurs who secure the greatest amount of venture capital, these stereotypes are grounded in some cold hard facts.
To be clear, I hold no grudge or resentment for not personally falling neatly into this stereotype myself. My interest, along with Tampa Bay Wave’s, is to foster the growth of Tampa Bay’s tech community, including the pool of local entrepreneurs and various talent necessary for building high-scale startups. But if we truly want Tampa Bay to be a world-class tech hub, we need a lot more startups – hundreds more to be honest. So while we must continue to support and attract the entrepreneurs and startups in our region today, we won’t truly be able to consider ourselves a top tech destination until we also foster the future talent from our community’s youth population. And the bigger the pipeline of local youth, the better.
Anyone familiar with my Tampa Bay Wave journey will tell you I have fought to connect the dots between our organization’s mission and the kids in our community from the beginning. This is especially true for at-risk kids since we know that helping just one kid actually means helping an entire family. And if we can scale this up to help as many kids as possible in our community, hopefully, we can also help them to permanently break out of the poverty cycle while also growing our region’s tech community.
This week, my passions have truly come to life. I couldn’t be more excited that Tampa Bay Wave is now partnering with Think Big for Kids, a charity launched by Tampa Bay entrepreneur Tony DiBenedetto that helps underprivileged youth discover their untapped potential by bringing them highly structured education, mentorship and career path development.
With this partnership, not only will we provide local at-risk kids real-life examples of tech entrepreneurs and other tech talent right in their own backyard, but also give them mentorship and inspiration so they can develop a viable post-high school career path for themselves – hopefully many of them in the tech field or in pursuit of their own entrepreneurial dreams.
Imagine a Tampa Bay where kids from any background have equal opportunity, especially beyond their high school education; where stereotypes are shattered and possibilities are opened up. When our community can make real progress for our local youth, we can firmly change the future of Tampa Bay, a future we are all proud to invest in.