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How SunTrust Foundation’s $50K grant to Synapse will deepen the innovation community

Margie Manning



Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

The SunTrust Foundation-Tampa/Southwest Florida has awarded a $50,000 grant to Synapse to help companies and non-profit organizations solve real-world problems.

Tim Schar, Tampa Bay market president, SunTrust

The funding will support Synapse Innovation Challenges, described by Tim Schar, president of SunTrust Bank Tampa Bay, as “the internships of the future.”

Challenge participants, including students and entrepreneurs, apply their knowledge and talents to create new products and services and advance their career opportunities, while companies and nonprofits find inventive solutions and options more quickly and cost-effectively.

Brian Kornfeld

The grant will support five challenges in 2019, said Brian Kornfeld, president and co-founder of Synapse. Synapse is a Tampa-based non-profit that connects entrepreneurs, talent, investors, corporations, schools, and other stakeholders to accelerate success.

Kornfeld and Schar, who also is chairman of the inaugural board for Synapse, will announce the first couple of challenges during the Synapse Summit Jan. 23 and 24 at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa.

“The idea is a company or organization has a problem they need to solve and it requires them utilizing the latest technology or innovation ideas and they don’t have those skills,” Schar said.

The challenge invites the innovators, makers and doers in the community to solve the problem.

“When you do that you get unexpected outcomes. In some cases you tap into serendipity. You’ve got a person who happened to know about blockchain or geo-fencing, things that a man on the street doesn’t know how to think about, let alone execute,” Schar said. “That person might say ‘I think that my capabilities will solve that problem for this organization.’ They work up a prototype of that solution, and then we come back together at the end of the innovation challenge and we award a prize to the person or group of people who have created the best prototype to solve that problem.”

That’s just the beginning. What happens after the challenge can be really interesting.

“That organization that had a problem and now has a solution could decide to commercialize that that solution. They could decide to improve on it, to add more features, to license it to other people. They could employ that team or person who solved that problem, or they could hire them as a consultant or build a team around them,” Schar said. “It creates a knock-on effect that further deepens our innovation community.”

In keeping with SunTrust’s mission of “lighting the way to financial well-being,” at least two of the participants in the innovation challenges will be non-profit organizations. Schar’s expectation is that will have broader impacts.

“They could also go to other communities in south Florida or central Florida or Georgia or California and say we have a solution that solves a problem that every organization like ours needs to solve. So we can create a much bigger impact than just one organization, one company locally,” he said.

Earlier Synapse Challenges have produced technology solutions for companies including Metropolitan Ministries, ConnectWise, Metro Development Group, Blockspaces, and Hashed Health, a news release said.

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