In light of its welcoming culture and supportive innovation ecosystem, Michelle Waite believes Tampa Bay can become a “tech capital with a heart and soul” with some additional resources.
She hopes to play an integral part in that process through her recently launched startup, GrowthMVP. Waite explained the company’s focus is to help early-stage tech founders in emerging markets like Tampa Bay find and utilize the most efficient route to increase funding and revenue growth.
Waite moved to the area in 2021 after spending several years as a tech marketing officer in San Francisco. Following the Jan. 16 announcement of her new venture, she wrote, “GrowthMVP was born out of the need to bring Silicon Valley-level growth strategies and execution to the U.S. emerging tech markets, without the over-bloated cost and ego.”
For the last decade, Waite has invested in, co-founded and worked for several tech-forward startups. She is also a regular contributor to the Catalyst through her “Startup City” series.
Before launching GrowthMVP, Waite served as VP of Marketing for Tampa-based Florida Funders, one of the most active venture capital firms and angel investor networks in the Southeastern U.S.
“I was blown away by the amount of technology companies launching in Florida every day,” she said. “This movement started well before I arrived here and was only accelerated by the pandemic when so many people moved to Tampa Bay, South Florida and other parts of the state.”
While Waite expressed her admiration for the energy and intelligence innovation leaders around San Francisco possess, she said success can sometimes breed inflated egos. After returning to Florida’s “Bay Area,” she was immediately impressed by the open and welcoming nature of the local tech industry, something she frequently mentioned in “Startup City.”
She believes the region’s growing tech movement and funding will continue attracting promising founders. However, Waite said Tampa Bay is still catching up to its established counterparts regarding local support resources.
“There has been a lot of discussion around the need for more technical resources to support the ecosystem and allow it to grow,” said Waite. “I believe the need for a higher level of experience also exists in the marketing, sales and product departments for these tech companies – especially SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies.”
Waite believes GrowthMVP can fill those gaps in the commercial aspects of early-stage businesses. She said many tech entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible to under-valuing company growth in the early days due to either a lack of knowledge or fear of making a wrong decision.
She added that entry-level new hires without tech marketing experience who require “a lot of hand-holding” justify that lack of trust.
Waite explained that her immediate goals are to serve as a fractional Chief Marketing and Chief Revenue Officer for tech companies in need while working on building an artificial intelligence-enhanced SaaS platform. She said that would provide tech startups with a low-risk growth playbook and a pathway to a complete team of revenue experts.
In addition, she said GrowthMVP would provide marketing, sales, customer success and product professionals that work collaboratively rather than in silos, which will increase speed and efficiency.
Waite noted two key takeaways from her extensive marketing and sales leadership career that shaped her approach to the tech startup world. The first is how a company culture of respect and accountability significantly impacts its odds of success.
She relayed that many of her philosophies incorporate the late Steven Covey’s principles. Those include the renowned author and businessman’s beliefs that someone should “seek first to understand, then be understood; begin with an end in mind; think win-win; and sharpen the saw.”
Waite also stresses the benefit of coordinating efforts rather than splitting sales, marketing, customer service and product development initiatives according to department or geography. She helped reinvent global business-to-business manufacturer Intralox’s silos and noted its success.
“All teams globally working toward their team’s common goals revolutionized the commercial department,” said Waite. “And enabled the company to go from one with less than $100 million in revenues to one with nearly $1 billion in revenues today.”
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