Florida’s tech sector turning virtual dreams into successful reality


The computer science department at the University of Central Florida in Orlando is losing Ph.D. candidates to West Coast tech titans like Google and Microsoft.

“Some of them bail out” before finishing their doctoral programs, says UCF computer science professor Charles Hughes. “They don’t make a lot of money as graduate students. … It feels good to be making money.”

But with the salaries being offered in Silicon Valley, can you blame them? Hughes doesn’t.

“Undergrads are getting $120,000; Ph.D.s are getting anywhere from $180,000 to $300,000, depending on what their skill sets are,” he said.

But those students might very well wind up back in the Sunshine State sooner than later. Florida tech firms like Plantation-based Magic Leap, Miami360VR, and Tampa’s HD Interactive are at the forefront of the virtual reality and augmented reality trends that are generating big headlines and even bigger investments.

Read more of my feature about Florida’s VR and AR tech scene in Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine. Photo courtesy of HD Interactive. 

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It’s not what you think

Couldn’t have said it any better than this. Please read and share.

I can clearly recall being in 8th grade and hearing Soundgarden’s “Badmotorfinger” for the first time. The power and raw elegance of Chris Cornell’s voice can’t be understated. He’ll be sorely missed.

The First Ten Words by Rich Larson

Chris Cornell, 1964-2017

Chris Cornell died early Thursday morning. His band Soundgarden played a show on Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Two hours after the show ended, he was gone.

For two days, I’ve been working on a piece to pay tribute to him, and it’s been a struggle. Usually when I have a problem like this it’s because I’m staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what I want to say. That’s not the problem this time. The problem is I have way too much to say.

I’m not going to sit here and claim to have been a huge fan of Soundgarden. I didn’t dislike them, I just had to take them in small doses. I was a fan of Cornell. I love “Seasons,” the solo song he had on Cameron Crowe’s movie, Singles. It’s a droning acoustic song about isolation and the…

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If I Knew Then … Blaine Cardinale

IMG_3003Blaine Cardinale is the co-owner of Mosquito Joe of Tampa Bay. Mosquito Joe is a Virginia Beach, Va.-based pest control company with franchises across the United States. Mr. Cardinale – along with his wife, Kristin, and father, Randy – owns and operates Mosquito Joe of Tampa Bay, which has more than 1,000 customers and was the first Mosquito Joe franchise to offer health benefits to its employees. Mr. Cardinale is a 2004 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and continues to serve in the Navy Reserve as a helicopter pilot.

Check out my interview with Mr. Cardinale in Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine.

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Why I listen to records. It has nothing to do with sound quality.

Great post … couldn’t agree more.

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If I Knew Then … Matthew Ganzak

matt_ganzakMatthew Ganzak is the director of business development at Renew IV Wellness, a Tampa, Fla.-based modern wellness spa offering innovative and effective ways for clients to reach their optimum lifestyle. He’s also a marketing strategist and author of The Million Dollar Plan.

Check out my interview with Mr. Ganzak in Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine.

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If I Knew Then … Leon McIntosh

leon_mcintosh1Leon McIntosh is the co-founder, along with his wife, Roseanne, of Tampa Coffee Club. The couple started the company as a way to capitalize on and help promote the Tampa Bay area’s burgeoning craft coffee roasting scene. Mr. McIntosh, a serial entrepreneur, is also the founder of Swyft Interactive, a Tampa-based software development-and-design company.

And the coffee they select for their customers is really, really good. Trust me on this one.

Read my interview with Mr. McIntosh in Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine.

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Historic yacht race returns after 58 years

5-1931-havana-startThe St. Petersburg Yacht Club is poised to make history again as the St. Petersburg-Habana Race re-launches Tuesday, Feb. 28 after a 58-year hiatus. The 107-year-old Yacht Club last staged the race in 1959. It was a major annual event from 1930 until that year, when political upheaval in Cuba ended the tradition.

The race has drawn a tremendous response. All 80 available entries were filled within the first week of its announcement on August 1, 2016. Over 550 sailors will descend upon St. Petersburg this weekend to enjoy preliminary events that include a race history dinner on Sunday, safety seminars and a bon voyage party on Monday evening for the race contestants.

The race launches in Tampa Bay near downtown St. Petersburg off the downtown St. Pete waterfront at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28. The waterfront will be quite a sight, as the dozens of sailboats make preparations in the early morning, then gather in the basin for the official start. They will head toward the Skyway Bridge and out into the open seas.

Boats will sail one to two days and arrive in Havana on Thursday. Once there, the sailors will enjoy the country’s hospitality at the Hemingway Marina through Sunday, March 5. The activities include a separate, 16 mile regatta with the locals that runs from Hemingway Marina to the Morro Castle.

“All of us at this Yacht Club are looking forward to seeing the historic race re-launch next week, and solidifying the exchange of fellowship between the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg, along with the Cuban government and the yachting world,” said the St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s former Commodore, Richard Winning, whose father was Commodore when the race last sailed in 1959.

Also participating in the Regatta is a contingent of family, friends, dignitaries and sailing enthusiasts who are flying down to Cuba via a package tour in order to join in the festivities.

The St. Petersburg-Habana race was first conceived in the late 1920s by George S. “Gidge” Gandy as a promotional event sorely needed with St. Petersburg mired in a housing bust brought on by the Great Depression. Eleven boats competed in the inaugural regatta, which started on March 30, 1930 at the St. Petersburg Municipal Pier. The winner finished in 41 hours, 42 minutes.

The race, which became one of St. Petersburg’s signature events, was suspended in 1942 due to World War II, and resumed in 1946. Military and political unrest in Cuba threatened the event in the latter 1950s, and it was last run in 1959, as gun-wielding revolutionaries patrolled the streets of Havana. Recent breakthroughs in U.S.-Cuba relations prompted club officials to re-institute one of its most historically significant events.

The Mission of St. Petersburg Yacht Club is to encourage and support yachting, and provide a comfortable social environment for our members and guests, while preserving and enhancing the Club’s traditions and prestige. The St. Petersburg Yacht Club is located at 11 Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.

To read my feature story about the return of the St. Pete-Habana race, visit Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine. 

Text by Amy Spencer. Photo courtesy of St. Petersburg Yacht Club. 

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If I Knew Then … Todd Hopkins

todd_resized_for_webTodd Hopkins is the founder and CEO of Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services in Palm Harbor, Fla. Office Pride was founded in 1992 in Indiana and in 2012 moved its corporate headquarters to Palm Harbor, west of Tampa. It began franchising in 1996 and today has 123 locations in 23 states across the United States, including five in the Tampa Bay region. Mr. Hopkins is the author of several business books that deal with topics ranging from entrepreneurship to workplace culture and values.

Check out my interview with Mr. Hopkins in Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine.

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If I Knew Then … Matthew Garfinkle

matthew_garfinkleMatthew Garfinkle is the co-founder of The Hip Room, a Tampa, Fla., dance studio that opened in July 2016. Mr. Garfinkle, a dance instructor since 2006, initially launched the business in Boca Raton, Fla., in 2013 before moving it to Tampa, where he partnered with Rita Bauer, the studio’s other co-founder. The Hip Room offers instruction in styles of dance ranging from ballroom and ballet to hip-hop, as well as dance fitness classes.

Check out my interview with Mr. Garfinkle in Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine.

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If I Knew Then … Rob Povolny

rob-headshotRob Povolny is the founder of Eat Fresco Foods in Tampa, Fla. Mr. Povolny founded Eat Fresco in 2014 after spending more than a decade working for major global brands like Coca-Cola and Nestle. Eat Fresco produces ready-made, preservative-free meals – using high-quality ingredients – that can be found in Tampa Bay-area specialty grocery stores, neighborhood markets, and some Winn-Dixie supermarkets. The company is building a $1.5 million, 12,000-square-foot food production kitchen in eastern Hillsborough County set to open in January 2017.

Check out my interview with Mr. Povolny in Crain’s Tampa Bay business magazine.

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