Synapse Summit 2020 touts entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tampa Bay Area

The 2020 Synapse Summit, set to take place February 11-12, is designed to gather together innovators, entrepreneurs, and executives to invigorate the region and state's innovation ecosystem. The two-day event at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa is packed with exhibiting companies, breakout sessions, and insightful presentations by some of the nation’s most influential business leaders.
“Getting people under one roof recreates that village-like scale that helps people curate some amazing connections,” says Brian Kornfeld, President and Founder of Synapse.

“Within Synapse, we try to bring together key players who should be involved in the innovation community. It’s not just entrepreneurs. We also look at investors, educational institutions, talent, sports organizations, government, service providers. It’s a wide range, and that’s what makes ecosystems like ours thrive.”
Synapse Summit 2020 keynote speakers include Sara Blakely of Spanx, new USF President Steve Currall, and Jeff Hoffman, formerly of Priceline and
One of the organization’s greater goals is to tell Florida’s untold stories while also debunking myths that surround the Sunshine State. “A lot of people think of Florida for the alligators, the weather, Disney, vacations. But it really is a host and a hotbed for innovation.”
“We have so many companies that are being ideated right now and a great pipeline for talent,” says Kornfeld. “We can help to grow this entire community by enabling the amazing resources of this incredible state. We have so much opportunity, and Synapse really helps take that opportunity and make it real.”

Urban Buffalo Marketing is one example of the successes to come out of the Synapse Summit, Kornfeld says.
“[Urban Buffalo Marketing] created a partnership with a larger agency, where the larger agency sets up clients that they can’t support,” says Kornfeld. “Now it’s a thriving company that is building and growing based on a partnership that they made at a table they were stationed next to.”

Kornfeld has learned through experience that arranging the Summit’s layout in a circular fashion helps to build networking and camaraderie, which is one reason why Amalie Arena is an ideal location as a venue.
“One big focus this year will be on the ice level. The exhibition on the ice is by top companies who really are coming and showing something immersive in experience,” he explains. “Think of virtual reality or a machine-learning car. Something you can see, touch, and feel from a health tech perspective. Things that are going to be really hands-on in a way people can learn.”
The caliber of speakers continues to get better with each Summit, he says. There are more than 300 on tap for next month’s event, highlighted by three keynote speakers.
Steve Currall, USF president and CEO, will be speaking on Synapse Summit's first day, February 11. “His vision for how USF can really help put Tampa Bay on the map in terms of innovation ecosystems is exciting and inspiring,” Kornfeld says.
A longtime innovation advocate, Currall co-authored a book called “Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America's Prosperity” in 2014. The topic explores how to build innovative ecosystems that work together, which aligns perfectly with Synapse’s outlook.
Jeff Hoffman, formerly of Priceline and, will also be speaking on February 11. “He’s a big picture thinker and a great innovator,'' Kornfeld says. "He’s an ideation guy who, at this point in his career, is big on helping those in underserved communities learn how to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses.”
Another keynote speaker on February 12 is Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, a Clearwater native and regular on TV's Shark Tank. Blakely experienced humble beginnings as she went door-to-door selling copiers to build up savings that eventually helped to create the future of shapewear. “Her story is one of true perseverance and entrepreneurialism and one that needs to be celebrated in big ways,” Kornfeld says.
The team at Synapse is pursuing outreach not only in Tampa Bay but statewide. “In today’s virtual world, there’s a lot of valuable resources that can be brought to places like Jacksonville and Orlando,” he says. “We realize we’re much stronger as one state than just one region.”
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Allison Koehler is a Cleveland-area native who now lives in Tampa by way of Detroit. She resides in Seminole Heights with her partner, Phil, and three children -- one human and two cats. When she isn't writing, she's watching pro football, listening to music, or streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime.