Boston tech firm relocates to St. Pete, continues evolving

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St. Petersburg’s reputation as a burgeoning technology hub continues attracting national innovation leaders, including a formerly Boston-based entrepreneur who launched an artificial intelligence-fueled bookkeeping platform Wednesday.

Botkeeper has provided automated bookkeeping solutions for accounting firms since 2015. Enrico Palmerino, founder and CEO, said the goal was always to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into its software as the technology matured.

Palmerino recently realized that St. Petersburg could provide an ideal headquarters for Botkeeper’s evolution. The company recently announced its official move after the entire executive team decided to “go all-in” on the city.

“Here you have a city that has all the infrastructure and everything it needs to be a modern hub for tech,” Palmerino said. “I felt like I was watching Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Seaport District start over again. And we had an awesome opportunity to make a big presence and splash in an up-and-coming region.”

The local talent pool and live-work-play environment were critical factors in Palmerino’s decision. He vacationed in the area and began considering a move in early 2023.

Palmerino said his head of engineering and product expressed a desire to recruit new members and relocate their departments to Tampa Bay. He began researching demographics and population shifts and thought the region – “particularly St. Pete” – had better odds than Miami of becoming “the next great hub.”

Palmerino noticed that an influx of people “who were part of the crypto bubble” brought their skillsets from Miami to the region. Digital currency utilizes blockchain and machine learning technology, “which bodes well for what we do,” he added.

St. Petersburg’s proximity to international airports, greenspace, weather and sense of community also attracted the young CEO. Palmerino said Tampa is “older” and lacked some of those benefits.

“If there was to be a fresh slate of how you build the infrastructure to create an awesome workforce and opportunity, St. Pete has it and is already starting to capitalize on it,” he said.

Botkeeper also plans to capitalize on those opportunities. The company employs nearly 600 people globally, with 75 spread across 40 U.S. states.

Nine employees already call Tampa Bay home, and Palmerino called that “one of our larger – if not largest – concentrations of staff in one area.”

That number will increase with the new Botkeeper Infinite product announced Wednesday. The software allows accounting firms to self-administer the software without outside guidance when servicing low-complexity clients.

“One of the challenges of building AI, especially when there’s no room for error, is needing a team or staff that could review its recommendations,” Palmerino explained. “And train or improve it until it can get it right at a super high-precision level.”

He and his engineers believe they have achieved that precision with AutoPush, Botkeeper’s new machine learning technology. They trained it on tens of thousands of financial transactions and believe AutoPush, which powers Infinite, will continuously improve.

Palmerino expects the company to grow 40-50% this year and into the future. He called Infinite the “vision or the dream of what we wanted to build at Botkeeper eight years ago.”

While Palmerino said creating the product took three times as much time and capital as initially planned, 600 users have already joined the waitlist. He noted that the company currently supports about 250 firms.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we double that number … before the end of the year,” Palmerino added. “That’s just going to lead to more growth and employment opportunities, and with an eye on St. Pete and the Tampa Bay region, that will mean a lot of those come here.”

He believes the local community will foster Botkeeper’s evolution. Palmerino noted that the University of South Florida and other schools provide innovative education structures that increase accessibility and academic benefits.

Palmerino said he was “heavily involved” in Boston’s tech ecosystem and enlisted the help of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation to help facilitate a transition. He has recently presented at USFSP’s Fintech Center and the Embarc Collective in Tampa.

Botkeeper occupies space at the Industrious coworking facility in downtown St. Petersburg. Palmerino plans to “double-down” on his local involvement – and “not just from an industry standpoint.”

“But also get involved in the community in the nonprofit sector, the arts,” he continued. “It’s very easy to want to get involved and give to a city as great as St. Pete.”

 

 

 

 

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