Tampa tops Forbes list of emerging tech cities

Tampa tops the list of emerging tech cities, according to a report recently released by Forbes, ahead of even New York and San Francisco, the home of Silicon Valley.

According to the report, there are more than 50 software and IT companies in Tampa. The city is also responsible for more than 25% of the state's tech jobs, with more than 2,000 new jobs expected this year.

"Without a doubt, it is going to continue and really snowball as we move forward," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. "That's one of the reasons that these companies are focusing in on the Tampa Bay area is that they know that workforce is available and we are continuing to provide the necessary education to make sure that that workforce is available as other companies decide to relocate or to begin here growing their business."

Along with Forbes, Castor credited Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik on his investment in the tech industry. Vinik and Microsoft founder Bill Gates invested $3.5 billion in the Water Street development, which is geared toward tech companies.

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Vinik also helped establish the nonprofit Embarc Collective, whose goal is to lure young technology-driven entrepreneurs to Tampa, pair them with top talent and coach them to succeed.

"I live on the ground in terms of helping to bolster the startup community here," said Embarc Collective CEO Lakshmi Shenoy. "So for me, I wasn't surprised [by the Forbes ranking]. I have a front-row seat to it every single day. Just to give you some context, we started working with start-ups in 2019, Embarc Collective did, and we were working with 25 start-ups at the time. Now we've quadrupled that number."

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Florida Funders, another Tampa company, has been instrumental on the investment side.

Tom Wallace, a managing partner, told FOX 13 his company has been investing an average of $1.5 million each in tech start-ups.

"We want to become more known for technology and innovation than we are for tourism and strawberries," Wallace said, adding the tech boom has continued even through the COVID-19 pandemic. "I don't think we need to be a want to be the next Silicon Valley. We want to be ourselves and who we are and we have our own strengths and our own opportunities that really are not in conflict with Silicon Valley."

Miami ranked second on Forbes' list, followed by New York City, Austin, TX and San Francisco.