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Synapse, Executive Director - Partner, Florida Funders

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Introduction

There are people who sit still. There are people who do small things. And there is Marc Blumenthal who does the complete opposite of those people. Blumenthal has left a trail of success throughout Tampa Bay. From Intelladon to Tribridge to Florida Funders, Blumenthal has demonstrated versatility and consistency in leading and growing companies. His two current ventures are likely his most challenging. Florida Funders is a trailblazer. Aggregating a huge number of angel investors and filtering through dozens of capital hungry start-ups is a puzzle that changes daily. Each angel is an island unto themselves. Startups are like newborns and require similar care. Insert your own herding cats reference here, except make them tigers and set off some fire crackers. Perhaps the only thing more complex than managing that bag of relationships would be trying to organize the whole Tampa Bay entrepreneurial ecosystem. That brings us to Synapse. Now in its second year, Blumenthal and team are trying to accomplish something that has repelled those before them - to unite and organize Tampa Bay's innovators. The first summit was big and messy and fun. It stirred up the community and got people connecting. Moving in to year two, we're eager to see where Synapse leads us - the platform, the summit, the mission. Whatever it ends up being, it won't be still or small.

Years in St. Pete

36

Organizations involved in

Quite a few. I'm on the board of the University of South Florida College of Business, I'm on the board of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, I'm involved in the Florida-Israeli Business Accelerator, Florida Funders, Tampa Bay Wave -- a lot of organizations. Sometimes I sit on the board and sometimes I just help whenever I can.

What gets you out of bed every day?

I love doing whatever I can to help grow businesses, help entrepreneurs. Being in the world of Synapse and ecosystem development and Florida Funders as a venture capital firm, I get to look at dozens of early-stage companies a week. There's nothing like looking at committed, energetic, smart people who want to grow a business. It just keeps me completely fired up.

Why St. Pete?

The "why I got here" is interesting. I got here to go to college at the University of South Florida from New Jersey in 1983. The "why Tampa Bay" started there, but the "why did I stay, build my businesses, raise my children, and become a crazy proponent of the region" is because of everything that is really special about our great patch of land. Not only is it beautiful, but the people are beautiful. Sometimes people ask me, "What makes Tampa Bay so special?" and it almost always comes down to the nature of people. We are generally the nicest, most accessible, most helpful place that I have ever been.

What is one habit that you keep?

I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, and I read. At some point, by six, I'm on a bicycle doing a workout, or I'm working out with a trainer.

who are some people that influence you?

I'm influenced by a lot of people. I'm inspired by young entrepreneurs, I am in awe of my wife and my children. There's a lot of people who have come before me in this region, who have been laying the foundation of making this one of the best places to build a tech company. Guys like Tony DiBenedetto, Steve McDonald, Tom Cardy, Tom Wallace, and the like who were early in building businesses and companies here and continue to give their time and their money. These people inspire me, as well as many others.

What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?

My belief, I'm not sure from what book or when I learned it, but it's to always show up, play full-out, and leave a situation better than you left it. I'm not sure that that's a methodology, but it's something that I live by. No matter who I'm meeting with, no matter what the reason, if they need something I'm going to do what I can to meet it and I'm probably not going to go to bed that night until I've completed that task.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?

That's a great question. It was supposed to be part-time. This was supposed to be my semi-retirement. I wish I would have set my wife's expectations better, that I would be working longer and harder now than I did when I was building startups myself. But I don't know that I would change anything at all.

What’s next?

"Next" is more of the same. My two passions, the two things that I work at every day -- being Florida Funders and Synapse, our 501(c)(3) that I'm involved in, are really just beginning. Florida Funders is at the precipice of really becoming the preeminent, early-stage venture capital firm in the state of Florida in providing access side-by-side with institutional venture capital funds, giving accredited investors opportunities to invest in those deals. We have a long road ahead of us -- a good road -- but we're well on our way. That's another five to ten years of waking up every day and working at it. Synapse is just beginning. When someone is ready to take the baton and we've achieved the outcomes that we want -- where Florida is known as the great place to come and build a company or stay and do great, engaging work, and is known as well for innovation and company acceleration as it is for sunshine, beaches, and theme parks -- then maybe I'll ride off into the sunset.

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