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What one judge in the Synapse pitch contest will be looking for in startups

Margie Manning



Synapse 2018 at Amalie Arena

When Synapse holds its pitch competition for startups next month, one of the judges will have some specific criteria in mind that will make winners stand out.

Jake Seid, managing director, Stone Bridge Ventures

“The most important things are a large addressable market, a significant competitive advantage, and the team talking about why they bring something unique from their background or unique insight to solving a problem,” said Jake Seid, managing director of Stone Bridge Ventures, a venture firm in the San Francisco Bay area whose portfolio companies have raised over $700 million to date.

Seid will be one of 14 judges evaluating the young companies in Synapse’s inaugural challenge to business startups.

Dubbed “Pitch Madness,” the competition will give eight startups an opportunity to tout their business practices and growth strategies and compete for investment capital. It will occur during the Synapse Summit, Jan. 23 and 24 at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa.

Synapse, a nonprofit that connects entrepreneurs, talent, investors, corporations, educational institutions and other stakeholders, has just opened the registration process for startups that want to take part in Pitch Madness. Qualifying companies must be based in Florida, with a product or service in the market, less than $3 million in raised capital, and some earned revenues. Check out the registration form here.

Stone Bridge Ventures doesn’t have any Tampa Bay area companies in its portfolio, but Seid said he wants to learn more about the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and opportunities, after connecting with Steve MacDonald, the founder, chairman and CEO of myMatrixx, a web-enabled pharmacy benefits manager in Tampa that sold to Express Scripts last year for $250 million.

“We’ve known each other over the last year and have talked a lot about different things happening in the venture space out here. As the [Synapse] conference was coming up, he suggested I get connected with it,” Seid said.

He said he’s looking forward to meeting local entrepreneurs and investors.

“ Innovation is happening in many parts of the country. It’s not just Silicon Valley, L.A. or New York. The opportunity for entrepreneurs to create big companies in different areas is more right now than it’s ever been because of the ability to do a lot with a small amount of capital.  And also quite frankly because we’re in a space where technology really is changing so many different industries all at the same time,” Seid said.

Other judges for the competition are:

Jim Barnish, general partner of Morgan Hill

Kira Blackwell, NASA executive

Brent Britton, managing partner of DLPH Law Group

Kathy Chiu, managing partner of FAN Fund

Ana Gonzalez, innovation and partnerships director of 500 Startups

Vincent Jackson, CEO of CTV Capital and former NFL player

Scott Levine, founder of AEGIS Law and iSelect Fund

Skip Marshall, executive of DXC Technology and former CTO of Tribridge

Richard Munassi, TechDiversity cohort director at Tampa Bay Wave

Steve O’Hara, president of New World Angels

Chuck Papageorgiou, CEO of International Screening Solutions

Joy Randels

Lakshmi Shenoy

Joy Randels, serial investor and entrepreneur

Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective

Pitch Madness will take place in front of a live audience that can join in the action by predicting the sequence and outcomes of the startups.

“We put an innovative, exciting twist on this pitch competition, adding the dynamics of public debate and crowd participation,” said Brian Kornfeld, Synapse president and co-founder, who spearheads Synapse Challenges.

Synapse also is taking registrations for the summit, online here.




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