The Synapse Summit is like an all-you-can-eat buffet, with hundreds of choices of sessions to attend, speakers to listen to, exhibitors to visit and connections to make.
It’s easy to stuff yourself with information, and that’s what I did on Wednesday, running from the mainstage presentations to the breakout sessions to the St. Pete Catalyst and PitchLyst tables on the Club level of Amalie Arena, where I met old and new friends and news sources.
If you were at Synapse Day 1, you probably had a similar experience.
If you were not there, here are my takeaways and highlights.
Women are a growing and visible force in Tampa Bay’s tech industry.
There was strong representation from female entrepreneurs and innovators — a change from last year’s summit, when organizers were criticized initially for a shortage of women presenters.
Sara Margulis, CEO of Clearwater-based Honeyfund, an online wedding registry, kicked off the event with a mainstage presentation Wednesday.
Four successful women entrepreneurs talked candidly about raising money during a packed breakout session. “Don’t bring anyone else to the table when talking with a venture capitalist,” said Anne Zink, CEO, 5×5 Technologies in St. Petersburg. “Do meetings on your own. Own the conversation.”
Linda Olson, CEO of Tampa Bay Wave, and Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective, took a deep dive into statistics that measure startup activity and suggest what it will take to get the area to the next level.
The Tampa Bay tech community is at the start of its journey.
The breakout session led by Olson, Shenoy and Moez Limayem, dean of the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, was based on the Startup Genome Report, comparing the state of startup ecosystems around the world. The Tampa area is in the “activation phase” — essentially the bottom rung of the ladder — with room for growth.
Tampa has more engineers than similar communities, but a deficiency of founders with hyper-growth experience, Shenoy said. The total volume of tech exits has increased substantially since 2012, but there were few exits valued at $100 million or more.
“The more $100 million exits we have, the more high-growth companies we have, that will attract more resources,” Shenoy said.
Creative efforts are underway to provide skilled workers to the companies that need them.
Generation Z, born in the mid 1990s to the early 2000s, lack social and communication skills needed in business, Limayem said during a panel discussion of tech talent. USF Muma has two partnerships to address that concern. One is with Sandler Training to teach interpersonal skills, networking, negotiation and even dining etiquette. Another partnership with Tableau, a data visualization and analytics company, prepares each Muma student to be a citizen data scientist, data savvy so they have better insights and can make better decisions, Limayem said.