Tampa Bay has seen tremendous growth within its tech sector in recent years, including innovative companies who are already finding ways to use technology to solve some of society’s most critical COVID-19 challenges. Such companies are vital to Tampa’s long-term economic growth by creating high-wage jobs and helping the local economy rebound quickly.
Many of these businesses are struggling to find relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal and small business relief options are often taking longer than anticipated to get much-needed cash into the hands of business owners. The pipelines for SBA and other loans are filled with millions of applications and processing delays may be significant, which may cause some to shutter while waiting. In other cases, promising startups may not qualify for sufficient support due to their early-stage venture status
Tampa Bay Wave has launched the Rising Tide Emergency Relief Fund to serve as a lifeline to desperate startups who were on track for success until the unprecedented and unexpected impact of COVID-19 virtually shuttered the world economy. Our goal is to offer short-term, near-zero interest loans for quick cash infusions with minimal paperwork. These loans are intended to help the businesses retain and pay their employees, stay current on their rent, and cover other fixed costs while they await state and federal funding.
As Wave adds to the fund through collective community giving, it will begin the immediate assessment of applications and deploy loans to local tech startups experiencing financial crises. These loans will be made available on a rolling basis until funds are depleted. Applicants must be current members of Tampa Bay Wave and be headquartered in the Tampa Bay region (or relocating its headquarters by end of the year).
Applications will be scored against Wave’s objective evaluation criteria scorecard designed to help triage those most likely to pull through. Approved applicants must sign an advance document, agreeing that micro loans are to be used only for ordinary and necessary business expenses, committing to monthly financial reporting to Wave, and pledging to repay the fund when circumstances permit. Even so, Wave recognizes that extensions and/or forgiveness may be required for some depending on circumstances.
Wave will provide reports to contributors, as these funds will be segregated from Wave operating funds. All funds will be directed to distributions; Wave is absorbing all program-related costs. Once the loan funds are replenished upon loan repayment, these funds will be kept in reserve in case another financial disaster impacts our local business community.
By helping startups retain employees, the ripple effect on health and human service providers can lessen. We have seen firsthand the stress these founders are experiencing as they lay off employees, cut their own pay, and reduce other expenses.
By helping startups survive these challenging times, we hope to quickly restore the rapid growth our tech community has experienced over the past several years. This will allow the Tampa Bay region to continue to attract and retain the talent needed for sustainable, long-term economic growth.
Startups who survive will be better positioned for growth, expanding their employee bases, with higher paid positions. A strong wage base supports recovery of the local economy and stimulates growth for a rebound.
Startups are asked to repay their loans when they are able so we can foster a community committed to “paying it forward” for future area startups. This will position the Tampa Bay startup community for continued, long term success.
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