Synapse Summit is back, bigger and better in 2022

Web3. Metaverse. NFT drop. These are innovation buzzwords for this year’s fifth Synapse Summit, expected to draw more than 5,000 to the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa on February 17.

“We’re really leaning into a lot of the hotter technologies,” says Synapse CEO and Co-Founder Brian Kornfeld. “We’re having a lot of fun with that.”

From the decentralization of Internet data offered through a Web3, to the metaverse virtual world that will change how people live, to non-fungible tokens for digital collectables, they’ve got it covered.

The slate of keynote speakers includes Cathy Hackl, CEO and chief metaverse officer of The Futures Intelligence Group, who Kornfeld describes as “godmother of the metaverse she helped create.”  

She’ll speak on “what the metaverse is, why it matters and practical steps businesses and individuals can take to step into this dynamic new world,” says Lauren Prager, Synapse’s chief strategy officer.

Keynote speaker Manny Medina, a Cuban immigrant, will talk about his entrepreneurial journey. His presentation will include his arrival in Miami and how he built three successful tech companies, founded an investment firm and launched eMerge Americas, Synapse's strategic partner connecting Latin America to the Miami tech community, Prager says.

Another keynote, Felecia Hatcher, is to share her “best practices to building a diverse and thriving tech hub in Miami that led her to become the CEO of Black Ambition, an organization created by Pharrell Williams to provide funding and resources to Black and Latinx founders,” Prager adds.  

The day-long event kicks off with registration at 8 a.m., and runs through after-parties scheduled at 5 p.m.

Synapse has grown in many ways since its inception in 2018, expanding to include Synapse Orlando and roundtables from Tallahassee to South Florida.

“That first year we had about 3,000,” he points out. “The one thing that was really noticeable was the energy. That energy has been growing exponentially.”

The organization has gotten “smarter,” “more immersive,” and “more celebratory,” he notes.

“If you look back at 2018, we had no clue what we were doing. We were just figuring it out as we went,” he says.

Now the team is stronger and the program more diverse, being transformed from a mainly white male main stage to a more inclusive program.

“It was an embarrassment. We made some drastic changes,” he acknowledges. “There’s still a very long way to go in making it a more equitable place.”

This year’s program includes a panel discussion at 11 a.m. led by the Florida High Tech Corridor that features University of South Florida’s Interim President Rhea Law, University of Central Florida President Alexander Cartwright, and University of Florida President Kent Fuchs. The topic is on the role universities play as drivers of innovation.

At the event, Synapse also is expected to grant awards to leaders in the following sectors: health tech, clean tech, defense and space, cyber security, entertainment and hospitality, community impact, and emerging tech. There also will be a grand prize, which has yet to be determined.

Winners will receive 3D-printed trophies.

This year’s judging is being done by Dan Mitchell, SmartStart program manager at Pasco Economic Development Council; Sarah Lucas, COO, New World Angels; David Adelson, executive director, Innovation and Technology, Orlando Economic Partnership; Kelly Reeser, managing director, TechFarms Capital; Rose LeJiste,  executive director, Black Orlando Tech; Roger Overby, senior managing director, Skyway Capital Markets; and Ramit Singh, director of Startup and Entrepreneurship Programs, Tampa.

The event is being offered in hybrid formats, although Kornfeld notes “You can’t replace the in-person virtually. ...  The energy that comes from doing it in person is palpable.”

He encourages people to wear masks “particularly while sitting and during sessions” and asks those who are sick to stay home.

General admission is $149, which includes both in-person and virtual access. Discount tickets for students/military/veteran/first responders, as well as virtual tickets, are $49. VIP tickets, which include a VIP pre-party and VIP-only programming, run $299.

Learn more and/or register here

“We’re off to the races. At this point, nothing is going to stop us,” Kornfeld adds. “If the pandemic can’t slow us down, nothing is going to slow us down.” 

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Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. Now a wife and mother, Cheryl discovered her love of writing as a child when she became enthralled with Nancy Drew mysteries. She earned her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Sociology from Loyola University in New Orleans. While working at Loyola's Personnel Office, she discovered her passion for helping others find jobs. A Miami native, Cheryl moved to the Temple Terrace area in 1985 to work for the former Tampa Tribune