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Notes from Lakshmi Shenoy’s presentation on the upcoming Tampa Bay Innovation Hub

Photo by Allie Felix. Click to see the source.

Last December, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and philanthropist Jeff Vinik hired Lakshmi Shenoy, VP Strategy and Business at the Chicago innovation hub 1871 to start a similar innovation hub here in Tampa Bay. Last night, Shenoy spoke to a packed room at a gathering organized by Tampa’s Indo-US Chamber of Commerce about the upcoming Tampa Bay Innovation Hub, which will be to Tampa Bay what 1871 is to Chicago.

I took notes and photos during her presentation, which I’ve shared below.


  • I was VP of Strategy and Business Development at 1871, an innovation hub located in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart
  • The notion of an innovation hub is less than 10 years old
  • 1871 has been described as “world class”. Why?
    • It’s 140,000 square feet of space whose purpose us to bring together stakeholders and startups to help grow local technology entrepreneurship
    • A place for 500 startups, 7 venture capitalist teams, several participating universities, and a stage that holds 1,000 public events a year
  • It’s a central gathering point for technology and entrepreneurship
  • I loved working with founders and teams at 1871
  • The impact of startups is my personal force forward

The move to Tampa

  • I was hired to start an innovation hub in Tampa Bay last year, and moved here in February
  • To get familiar with the area, I needed to leverage the knowledge of locals, and conducted over 200 interviews with them
  • The locals were open and friendly
  • From these interviews, I formed my strategy and concluded that Tampa Bay faces three key challenges:
    1. Access to talent and capital
    2. Density
      • Tampa is spread out geographically
      • Such a spread-out place could benefit from place making
      • We need a landing zone that could act as a gathering place and that makes it easy for newcomers to find other people in the Tampa Bay tech/entrepreneurial scene
    3. Branding
      • Startup talent doesn’t think of the Tampa Bay area as a place to set up their startup
      • We need to make a team effort to promote Tampa Bay
      • Use the hashtag #MakeItTampaBay

The Tampa Bay Innovation Hub

  • “Tampa Bay Innovation Hub” is the legal name; the name that the place will go by is under wraps and will be announced soon
  • We’re seeking talent who want to help us and want to be woven into community
  • It’s a physical space whose purpose is to make Tampa Bay a startup place, similar to Station F in Paris
  • It has 3 conceptual pieces:
    1. Practical: It gives you a place where you know where to go to find the Tampa Bay tech scene
    2. Emotional: It provides a community of people who understand the entrepreneur’s experiences and challenges
    3. Perception: It provides an image of activity, visual density, and an abundance of opportunity, and no one person or group up can do that
  • It’s an ESO: an entrepreneurial support organization

The target and partners

  • We’re targeting 3 key groups:
    1. Founders and startup teams at the core
    2. Invested supporters
    3. Tampa Bay’s tech/entrepreneurial community and beyond, acting as positive stewards

  • It’s about creating a big tent that’s open to everyone who wants to be part of creating the conditions for startup success
  • My KPIs are people
  • We must:
    • Have the density to retain people
    • Develop anyone who wants to engage
    • Future-proof people
    • Create exposure and access to new tech

Coming soon

  •  The brand of the hub exists: it’s just under wraps
  • We’re attracting local and international partners — that’s right: international partners!
  • We want to announce space with wow factor
  • Startup signups will start soon

  • This is a very special time for the Tampa Bay community
  • When I came here last fall, I noticed an energy and optimism here
  • I’m happy that I get to be part of this region’s story

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