2019 Synapse Summit spotlights innovation in Florida

The 2019 Synapse Summit, a symposium to help innovators build connections in the tech community, returns to downtown Tampa January 23rd and 24th with a full slate of programming designed to spotlight Florida’s growing presence in the world of innovation.  

“Florida is experiencing an innovation revolution,” says Marc Blumenthal, executive director and co-founder of Synapse, a nonprofit founded to accelerate innovation in Florida. “The Synapse Summit provides the opportunity to engage with Florida’s most innovative people, entrepreneurs, investors and corporations in a meaningful and purposeful way.”

Tampa was chosen to host the event again this year because it’s close to the state’s geographic center, attracting great companies and talent from across the state, says Brian Kornfeld, Synapse president and co-founder. Plus, he notes, the summit falls between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Gasparilla, giving a more “South by Southwest” feel to the week. 

This year’s summit, themed “Innovation Lives Here,” is the centerpiece of Synapse Innovation Week, which runs January 21st-25th. Organizers expect more than 5,000 attendees, along with 300 exhibitors and 250 speakers from across the country. Technologies to be featured include everything from virtual and augmented reality to the Internet of Things to cryptocurrency. 

“Innovation Lives Here” was chosen as the theme for a number of reasons, Kornfeld says, including that the title can mean different things to different people.

“Our four main stage sessions are themed "Innovation Lives Here,” "Talent Lives Here,” "Investment Lives Here,” and "Opportunity Lives Here,” he says. “Those are just four of the potential meanings. It could mean that innovation lives in Florida, or innovation lives in a particular industry, or within a particular talent. At the end of the day, we want to spread the message across the world that Florida is open for people to start a business and scale a business in the innovation space. We can't wait to see what happens once the entire world begins to take notice.”

Keynote speakers include Larry Quinlan, Deloitte’s Global Chief Information Officer; Sara Margulis, CEO and founder of Honeyfund and successful participants on Shark Tank; a mainstage discussion about the unique talent in Florida featuring Vincent Jackson, co-founder and CEO of CTV Capital and former wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kent Paro, VP of Enterprise Risk Management at Grow Financial Credit Union and retired Navy SEAL commander; a mainstage panel with Steve MacDonald, former CEO of MyMatrixx, Jake Seid, Managing Director of Silicon Valley-based Stone Bridge Ventures and Zach Coelius, Managing Partner of Silicon-Valley based Coelius Capital; Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective; Steve Barsh, Managing Partner of DreamIt Ventures; and Charlie Shrem, Blockchain expert and founder of Sarasota-based CryptoIQ.

Activities planned for the event include:
  • Programming and breakout sessions for military veterans seeking to transition into civilian careers.
  • Pitch Madness, a NCAA tournament-style competition where eight qualifying startups will go head-to-head to win investment capital.
  • Presentation of Synapse Challenges, which are crowdsourcing solutions for organizations to solve real-world problems and create new opportunities. 
  • Live demos.
  • Interactive breakout sessions.
  • Innovation competitions.

Kornfeld says that by the end of the summit, he hopes attendees will feel a greater sense of connection to the community.

“That could mean meeting one person or company that helps drive value to you. That could mean hiring talent or getting a job. That could mean getting an investment. That could mean connecting to a new set of education from one of our amazing breakout sessions. That could mean just feeling connected to the future when trying out a Magic Leap headset,” he says. “If each person can make one valuable connection, this community becomes that much tighter and stronger.”

To learn more and to register for the summit at Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa FL 33602, visit the Synapse website
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Jaymi Butler.

Jaymi Butler is a writer and editor who enjoys telling the stories of growth and innovation in the Tampa Bay Area, which she has called home since 2003. A former reporter for the Savannah Morning News, The State, and The Tampa Tribune, she has covered a variety of topics ranging from business to features to public health -- and she even got to sit in on an American Idol audition just feet away from Simon Cowell!