Canadian startup aims to grow Tampa presence
REES Community, a Canadian tech company that’s developed an online platform for reporting sexual harassment and assault, wants to grow its presence in Tampa.
The startup is one of several companies in the Tampa Bay Wave’s annual TechDiversity Accelerator program.
“We are in the initial phases for expansion into the U.S. through Tampa Bay Wave. The Wave has introduced us to the startup ecosystem here and gave us the exposure we didn’t previously have coming from Canada,” founder Mary Lobson said. “One thing that struck me early on was the sense of community here and the welcoming environment. At the pitch event at Tropicana Field and other events, there’s a full range of folks in those rooms from universities, economic development, local businesses and investors – there’s a true broad sense of community here supporting founders and startups in the region.”
Lobson said she’s exploring the opportunity of having a physical presence at Tampa Bay Wave and how other Canadian-founded companies such as Spontivly, a community management platform that recently received backing from Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban and relocated to St. Petersburg, have found success locally.
“We want to create roots here and we’ve seen how Tampa and St. Pete are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion at a municipal level – not just one company or one institution,” she said.
REES Community has nearly 30 contracts, primarily with universities, colleges and event venues, and is also growing in the sports arena.
The business-to-business tech company’s platform can be adapted for any sector.
“The platform was created for the corporate space, and we have moved into sports and broader sectors to include reporting on bullying and discrimination at campuses. We are hearing across the board that students are calling for action and we see legislation around anonymous reporting,” she said.
While some intuitions may not hold the belief nor acknowledgment that sexual assault and harassment can occur or is occurring within their walls, Lobson said, “the reality is it is still happening, and why not get in front of it?”
On the financial side, assault and harassment cases can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars for payout, costing the institution and also exposing an environment that could be widely viewed as unsafe.
Lobson said institutions can take this data collected by anonymous and identified victims to create policies and enforcements.
All of the records are encrypted, protecting the victim.
The startup is backed by investors in the Midwest and Florida.
“Over the last six months, the market has significantly changed. For us, what’s important is to strategically expand our resources and grow. We will be doing an extension on our pre-seed round. We want to be stable until 2024, and this raise will enable us to move forward,” she said.
Lobson’s goal is to raise $600,000.