The Innovators: Andreas Calabrese

6 views 3:08 pm 0 Comments December 4, 2023

The Innovators, presented by the Florida Blockchain Business Association and Cityverse, showcases the people and organizations that shape what’s coming next in Tampa Bay.  

Andreas Calabrese is driving innovation on two fronts. As the day-to-day leader of TampaBay.Ventures, he’s bringing the “rocket fuel” to high-powered startups in the form of early stage funding. Innovative local ventures like Spontivly, Procoto and Reptrics have received a piece of the $20,000,000 fund. 

Calebrese and company are also innovators themselves, and have introduced an evolved thesis of investing to the region. The group focuses only on Tampa Bay-based companies and sources deals with boots on the ground approach. That means they are highly active in the local venture scene, and work to bring best practices to each step of the startup process. 

The involvement doesn’t end with funding. Calabrese works closely with founders at each of TampaBay.Ventures’ 14 portfolio companies. The sheer volume of action forces him to constantly improve how he interacts with the young companies. “If you take a look at a phone of the average venture capitalist, you have 10 good moments incoming that require action, you have 10 moments of utter doom for certain companies that require action,” he shares. “And that stream is basically never-ending.” 

Through all the drama, he believes a new company must innovate to succeed. He sets the bar at a 10X improvement. “I would define innovation as any creation that has an order of magnitude impact to the end user,” Calabrese explains. “Is there at least a 10x reduction in cost, in time, in quality of experience, or in distribution?” 

He continues: “When you think of what is a true innovation, it’s something that really steps society forward, like AI and large language models. You could certainly say that they are beyond at least a 10x reduction in the time certain tasks have. I think that the amount of items or amount of tasks or amount of things that they provide at least a 10x return to is very, very broad. So that’s a huge innovation, because it can provide that level of value to a ton of different areas.” 

Along with AI (artificial intelligence), blockchain is a frequent topic of conversation at TampaBay.Ventures. Though cryptocurrency is only a single use case for blockchain, the negative state of “crypto” today has also impacted non-currency startups. 

Calebrese speaks to the future of blockchain:  “Blockchain, I think, as a technology in terms of a distributed ledger, it’s almost kind of inevitable. It’s not going to be perfect for every use case. But there are some use cases where it’s that exact example of a 10x either decrease in cost from processing a certain type of transaction or a 10x increase in the availability of data that you can make a decision on.”

He digs further into the current swirl around cryptocurrency and how it’s impacting blockchain adoption: “We’re having this ongoing conversation about whether a cryptocurrency is a security or is not, it seems as though we have regulators who believe that they’re legislators and want to decide for people how they should be protected. And that’s what we have regulators to do.

“But regulators are not put in place to draft legislation. That’s the job of Congress. So luckily, we’ve seen the SEC kind of challenge this assumption the Supreme Court has, they’re zero for three against the Supreme Court in these cases.”

He compares the current sentiment around blockchain to major technology advances of the past: “What I think is probably going to happen is you’re going to have the same kind of innovation cycle that you have with anything that’s really, really fundamentally changing. The internet is a perfect example. 90%, if not probably 99% of the websites that were on the worldwide web in 1999 to 2000 don’t exist today. There’s probably lots of instances of where someone was being opportunistic and taking advantage of a new technology. But I think it would be very silly for us to go back in time and say that we should ban the internet. We can’t pretend that societal innovations don’t exist.”

Calabrese extols the virtue of perspective to not get caught up in micro-movements that ultimately won’t stop a macro-trajectory for blockchain. “We fully understand the need for regulating society and protecting individuals,” he says. “But in my perspective, in my view, blockchain is going to continue to exist. It is an incredible innovation in computing. We’ve proven that you can make something with a unique address on the internet, and that was never possible before. But the cryptocurrency debate, I think, is a big distraction from what blockchain is, because realistically, there’s only two or three cryptocurrencies that are intended to be actual currencies rather than an exchange layer for some underlying protocol.”

Calabrese and TampaBay.Ventures continue to seek innovative startups.