Tech Day & Closing Retreat
Leadership Tampa Bay

May 22, 2024

written by: Justin McAllister – Grey Group, LLC

Leadership Tampa Bay’s Tech Day & Closing Retreat

For the past nine months, the Leadership Tampa Bay Class of 2024 has been on an exciting journey, exploring the inner workings of our vibrant region. Gaining perspective into local government, art programs, regional and professional sports teams, healthcare, education, military, and social services, the cohort has explored the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ of what makes our community thrive. The grand finale? A two-day Tech Day & Closing Retreat that started in Tampa and ended on the beautiful white sands of Clearwater Beach. Two days bursting with inspiration, tech talk, and a whole lot of fun!


Day One

The adventure kicked off at Embarc Collective, a globally recognized hub for startup tech companies located in downtown Tampa. Our morning was fueled with breakfast sponsored by ReliaQuest, a cybersecurity company that helps security teams increase visibility, reduce complexity, and manage risk. ReliaQuest’s security operations platform, GreyMatter, unifies workflows to improve detection, investigation, and response.

Colin O’Connor, President of Field Operations at ReliaQuest, set the tone for the day by sharing the company’s remarkable journey from a 2008 startup to a 9-figure powerhouse by 2023. His key message? Engage with, support, and collaborate with your local startup tech companies. The world of tech startups is fast-paced, and your next $100M+ company might be right here in Tampa. To the young entrepreneurs, he emphasized focusing on driving revenue, retaining customers, and understanding the blend of technology and business.

Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective, took the stage next, illuminating Tampa Bay’s tech startup scene and providing insights into their thriving ecosystem. She shared the impressive impact of Embarc Collective’s mission to nurture startup talent, boasting over 125 active member startups that have collectively created 900+ jobs and raised $209 million from global investors. Most impressively, their startups boast a 96% five-year survival rate, compared to the national average of 50%.

Lakshmi then moderated a dynamic Q&A panel with Leadership Tampa Bay alum and Embarc Collective members Melissa Glossup of Safety Biometrics and James Ontra of Shufflrr, discussing the tech behind both companies, the importance of supporting local startups, and the positive economic impact of shopping small. Glossup founded Safety Biometrics in 2020, offering real-time vital sign monitoring to alert employees and their managers of dangerous situations that could impair their abilities and lead to accidents and potential injury. The Shufflrr platform, founded more than two decades ago, simplifies the management of PowerPoint presentations throughout organizations, transforming tangled files into easily accessible and flawlessly organized content.

The morning session concluded with a tour of Embarc Collective’s state-of-the-art facility and a tasty lunch courtesy of ReliaQuest.

The class then headed to the Sheraton Sand Key in Clearwater. The evening festivities featured a cocktail reception, dinner, team skits, socialization, and an 80’s & 90’s throwback karaoke session. It was a perfect blend of fun and relaxation, cementing the bonds formed over the past months.


Day Two

Day two began with a breakfast nine stories up overlooking the gulf, Bloody Mary’s to regain focus, and motivational talks from a panel of first responders. Fire Chiefs Jason Dougherty (Hillsborough County Fire Rescue), Robert Bassett (St. Petersburg Fire Rescue), and Ian Kemp (Temple Terrace Fire Rescue) shared their insights on leadership, organizational culture, and recruitment challenges. Their stories were both enlightening and inspiring.

The day took an emotional turn with a Zoom session from Patric Young, a former professional athlete whose life was dramatically altered by a car accident that left him paralyzed. Patric’s powerful message about resilience, positivity, and the impact of kindness moved everyone. His determination to walk again and his positive outlook on life left a lasting impression.

The retreat concluded with a panel of past Leadership Tampa Bay Chairs: Jason Baker (President of Tampa Bay Business Wealth), Jackie Skryd (St. Pete College), Frank Rygiel (Executive Vice President of Construction Services Inc.), and Danny Jackson (Managing Principal of RSM US). They emphasized the importance of staying connected as alumni and the value of community involvement.


A Bittersweet Goodbye

The retreat was a perfect ending to a program filled with learning, growth, and new friendships. While we felt a touch of sadness as the program concluded, we left with a sense of accomplishment and a commitment to continue making a positive impact on the Tampa Bay community.

A huge thank you to the Tech Program Day committee led by Ed Ellsasser, CEO of PrimeGroup Insurance, and the Closing Retreat committee led by Joe Chiellini, President/CEO of ASI Landscape Management. We are also grateful to our gold sponsor, ReliaQuest.

Special thanks to the Class of 2024 Chair Nancy Newkirk, Vice Chair Eric Dailey, President of Halifax-Solutions, and Leadership Tampa Bay Executive Director Alice Bessette for their unwavering support and leadership.

Leadership Tampa Bay has once again demonstrated its role as a catalyst for fostering leaders ready to drive growth and community development. Here’s to the memories made and the bright future ahead!

To learn more about Leadership Tampa Bay and apply, visit Leadership Tampa Bay.


The Leadership Tampa Bay class year begins in September and runs through May. Each year, the Board of Directors organizes 11 class days that focus on regional issues and opportunities. The agenda for each day consists of panel discussions with business civic and government leaders, questions and answer sessions, and facility tours. In addition, each class member participates in both an opening and closing retreat and a two-day Tallahassee Trip.






Post Office Box 1315
Tampa, FL 33601


Executive Director
(813) 486-8917