We are asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2022 and give us catalyzing ideas to make St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2022.
As a young adult, Chris Jenkins found himself “essentially homeless” and broke the law due to a perceived lack of opportunity and direction.
Today, after more than a decade as a successful tech entrepreneur, Jenkins wants to help the children of St. Petersburg avoid the same path.
Jenkins, digital director of Symphony, launched ImTheirWebGuy.com in 2010. Jenkins said he started the local boutique development company in an emergency response to the collapse of markets during the Great Recession and grim opportunities for business. jobs that followed. After building his business for five years, Symphony – a St. Petersburg-based marketing and communications company – acquired ImTheirWebGuy and appointed Jenkins to lead development.
In early 2018, Jenkins joined the Pocket Network advisory board, which he says put him on the straight line where he is today. According to its website, Pocket Network’s mission is to coordinate open access to the world’s public data and enable anyone to provide unstoppable infrastructure. Jenkins’ big idea for 2022 is to enable families with children to increase their income and social and financial mobility through technology.
âOne of the things I’ve worked on, which isn’t necessarily entrepreneurial but something that I think is absolutely necessary, is a project called Third Quintile,â he said.
Jenkins said the project begins by identifying families whose incomes fall in the first and second quintiles of the population and “have great potential in the tech space.” A quintile is 20%, and in statistics it refers to a population or sample divided into five equal groups, depending on the value of a particular variable.
The program would provide families with training, monitoring and early placement to help them move from the first income quintile to the third.
âWhat we’ve seen, statistically, is sort of where you actually start to achieve true social and financial mobility,â Jenkins said. “So for me that will be one of my biggest goals this year.”
Jenkins said he was looking for good pilot schools to partner with and had had discussions with several local organizations. One of these organizations is Life-Skills, Empowerment, And Development Services, or LEADS. Jenkins said LEADS already has a strong presence in the community providing parenting, family and educational support.
Jenkins hopes to create a series of technology labs that will allow students to receive focused and hands-on technology training. Students would also have access to high-quality computer equipment, and Jenkins noted that many children depend on a mobile device to access the Internet. âSo getting them into a real lab environment and letting them familiarize themselves with the technology,â he said.
Jenkins said he is also setting up an exchange where people working on technology projects can use Third Quintile program cohorts to complete the job. Jenkins added that the program will also pay for the scholarships.
âThis would allow these kids to have a real world experience on their resumes as they graduate from high school,â Jenkins said. “And being able to jump right into a good, solid tech job for the middle class.”
Jenkins said the ultimate goal of the program is to create a shift in intergenerational wealth. He explained that it’s much harder for people in the first quintile to break the cycle of poverty, and once someone hits the middle-class income threshold, the doors start to open. Jenkins said that poverty in itself is a trap and noted, âbeing poor is very expensiveâ. He added that improving a family’s income potential has an aggravating effect when passed down from generation to generation.
In addition to his Third Quintile project, Jenkins said he was very excited about St. Pete’s potential as a hotspot for technology development in 2022. He said he never liked the West Coast. , the Silicon Valley environment, calling it “super click -y” and more about who you know rather than what you bring to the table.
âThe way we do technology in St. Pete is so much more user-friendly,â Jenkins said. âIt’s wider and there is more access. “
Jenkins wants to keep pushing this idea forward into the New Year. He said organizations like the Social Entrepreneur Club and various other emerging venture capital and cryptocurrency groups in the region indicate that Tampa Bay is emerging as a leader in technological innovation on the East Coast.
Jenkins said he is looking for the next promising tech and crypto startups and wants to help mentor, lead and grow them to success.
âI want St. Pete to be on the map as a place where if you are a young entrepreneur looking for a rich environment and other people ready and willing to work for you, and most importantly, capital funding, let you know this is the place to go, âJenkins said.
There is a bit of a battle for St. Pete’s heart, Jenkins said, and he will be watching to see how that plays out in the New Year. He explained that some in the city are focusing on the continued development of the downtown area, especially with the construction of new luxury condominiums. He said another segment of residents feared the city would lose its heart and soul, especially its vibrant arts and music scene.
âPersonally, I want to spend more time making sure we’re preserving what I think is St. Pete’s culture,â Jenkins said. âMay we not lose sight of these kitsch little art studios and concert halls and their pride – our diversity and our inclusion.
“I think it’s really important that we have culture keepers out there, never losing sight of the fact that without these things St. Pete would never have become what he is.”