I first launched We Are Tampa Bay, then known as tmpby.com, back on April 21, 2010. A new version was launched at Tampa Bay Barcamp in September of last year. It has continued to grow in size, and has well over 300 registered members from Tampa Bay. Many of you have been anxiously awaiting the T-shirts to come in stock and others have been waiting to begin posting job ads. As you have seen, I’ve simply not had the time to finish up those features and get them online.

Focus

A personal goal for me for 2012 was to refocus my efforts and reduce the number of projects I was active in. I have a lot of interests and I got myself involved in so many projects that I was not able to put enough time and effort into each of them any longer. A few months ago I shut down another of my side projects, Peepnote.com after two years, for this same reason. I’ve slowly, one by one been reassessing my commitments, both personal and career, and reducing them to my most beloved interests and passions. I believe laser like focus, coupled with passion, determination, and perseverance are the keys to accomplishing goals, and have decided that in order to do so, there will be some casualties.

I’m sorry to say, We Are Tampa Bay is the next to go. It’s been great getting to meet so many of you, and I had grand plans for what could be done with the effort. But at the same time, my strengths and passions have to do with creating and delivering technical solutions to modern day problems and challenges. We Are Tampa Bay at this point is really a social project and more than anything needs a community manager in order to become all that it can be.

The Vision

We Are Tampa Bay has reached the majority of those in its target audience who are online. At this point, to really reach out to the local technology community, HR departments need to involved  to include those not currently as active online or with community groups and meetups.

The original vision and intention of the outreach was to showcase and highlight the breadth and depth of the technology community in the Bay area. I have long believed that the community is much larger than most of us realized, but there are a few challenges it faces that must be addressed in order for the community to be recognized for what it already is, and for it to grow even stronger and larger.

First, due to the layout of the area, we are very spread out, both in geographic location, but also with the types of companies we work for, and the technologies we use. Because of this we rarely interact with each other. I spent the first half of my IT career working for larger corporations in the area, but have worked for startups for the last four years. I’ve noticed that there are many in the corporate IT world that dislike that type of job and wish they could work for smaller, more personal teams on cutting edge projects. However, they are unaware that any opportunities exist in the area for this type of work. On the flip side, there are those working freelance, or for small startups, that would prefer the stability and pay of a corporate opportunity but are unsure how to proceed with making the change to this type of work.

The two types of workers run in very different circles, and would benefit from a greater awareness of other opportunities in the area, as well as from the experiences and perspectives of a wider range of their peers.

Second, there is a growing world of “startups” in the Tampa Bay area, as there are in cities all around the country. It’s the new “sexy” for IT and it’s very enticing. It draws a lot press and a lot of attention. However, it is not the only way Tampa’s technology community will grow and in fact I don’t believe it should be the focus.

Startups don’t grow a tech community in size, unless they are very large (Github, Twitter, Facebook, etc). The average startup is usually a small size team for several years before growth. Even startups like Instagram that are purchased for a billion dollars, only had 14 employees. They bring publicity but not jobs. Larger companies in the area like IBM, Verizon, Intercontinental Hotels, Nielsen, Brighthouse, etc, have a much greater impact on the area. We also have a huge collection of Internet agencies here, and continued growth in that Industry will bring more jobs than startups will.

I’m not against startups and small tech companies, and have worked for many (WOMbeat, TourWrist, MileyCyrus), including my current contract and side projects (PeepNote, Commendable Kids, We Are Tampa Bay). I hope more are started here, and that many of them can go on to be successful. But, it’s important that we as a community do not focus too much on the startup aspect and instead focus on growth from many different areas.

In summary, the vision of We Are Tampa Bay is to encourage growth in all these areas, bring current IT workers together with each other, and highlight the work these individuals are doing all around the Bay area.

It’s Up to You Now

I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into this endeavor for the last two years but in order to pursue my next projects with full commitment and intensity, I’ll have to say goodbye to We Are Tampa Bay. Because so many of you have been encouraged by the site and believed in the vision from the beginning, I didn’t want to simply shut it down without presenting the opportunity for someone to step up and become the community manager and take over the site.

I will be happy to turn it over 100% to someone who I believe understands the vision and wants to see it continue. There are a couple of conditions to my willingness to turn it over. First, it has to be someone I’m convinced will commit to it. Second, I’m going to be 100% off the project. This means I cannot continue to support it from a technical standpoint either. The site is currently in Ruby on Rails and hosted for free on Heroku. I have no problem with the site being redeveloped and relaunched using another technology, but either way, I will not be able to spend any time on supporting the current application. Lastly, it has to happen quickly. If someone does not step up who fits these requirements and wants to run We Are Tampa Bay by August 1st, I will be closing down the site.

So spread the word and discuss it among yourselves. Contact me with questions if you have any. Perhaps, We Are Tampa Bay will continue, perhaps not, but it was a great adventure that produced some wonderful memories for me.