The Synapse Summit started five years ago with the mission of bringing entrepreneurs, investors and key players in the tech space all under one roof, and this year’s event will carry out the same goal – but on a much bigger scale.
The Synapse Summit will be a one-day event at Tampa’s Amalie Arena Feb. 17. The event attracts investors throughout the state and gives the local startup community a spotlight. Synapse CEO and co-founder Brian Kornfeld recalls the moment they kicked off the summit in 2018.
“I remember being on calls with people in 2018 saying we should cancel the event, but we wanted to do something great for the community in terms of creating a connection,” Kornfeld said. “The community was disjointed. We have always had tech talent and investors, but there wasn’t the connective tissue, and we wanted to put everybody under one tent to create a big bang effect to help propel us into the future.”
Kornfeld said BlockSpaces launched at the first Synapse Summit. Today, BlockSpaces, which recently secured $5.75 million, and other rapidly growing companies which have celebrated funding milestones have returned to the event.
“These celebrations help get eyeballs on us and it creates a snowball effect,” Kornfeld said, listing how companies such as Drift, a unicorn company founded by a Tampa native; fintech startup Fast; cybersecurity firm OPSWAT and Cathie Wood’s ARK Invest firm have made Tampa Bay their new home amid the recent activity.
Kornfeld said a major theme this year in the breakout sessions will be the hot topic discussion of blockchain, the metaverse and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) as well as cybersecurity.
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There will be a mix of industry leaders for the panels that include executives from BlockSpaces, Pocket Network and Celsius, which developed a financial platform where consumers can earn, borrow and pay with cryptocurrency on the blockchain.
This year, the keynote speakers for the Synapse Summit will be Manny Medina, one of South Florida’s best-known serial tech entrepreneurs, and Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition. Synapse will announce a third keynote speaker within the next two weeks, along with a full agenda of the breakout discussion panels.
Medina is considered to be the “godfather of the innovation scene in Miami,” Kornfeld said. Medina, a Cuban-born citizen, moved to Miami with his family where he began studying science and business. Medina founded the data services company Terremark at the age of 28, serving as CEO until the company was acquired by Verizon for $2 billion in 2011. Medina then went on to launch Medina Capital – a private equity firm focusing on cybersecurity technologies, and eMerge Americas – the annual South Florida technology event connecting the U.S., Latin America and Europe, according to his bio.
Hatcher is a Miami-based entrepreneur and bestselling author. She is the CEO of Black Ambition, a nonprofit initiative founded by Pharrell Williams to provide startup capital to high-growth startups founded by Black and Latinx entrepreneurs.
As for the exhibitors, there will be over 300 companies that will be placed strategically in the halls based on the sector they serve, such as medtech and fintech.
“We intentionally designed those ‘hubs’ because we want to help create a connection between the similar-minded companies,” Kornfeld said regarding the placement of the exhibitors.
This year’s Synapse Summit will be a hybrid event, allowing people to listen to sessions both in-person and online. In 2021, the event was two days, and was solely available online.
“We decided to make the event a one-day event this year because one thing we kept hearing was how somebody would show up on Day 1 and miss the person they wanted to connect with who would be there only on Day 2. We are anticipating better outcomes this year,” Kornfeld said.
Synapse Orlando was recently held with an audience of 1,500 people. This year for Tampa, Kornfeld expects to see 5,000 people, with the majority physically attending the event.
Additionally, Synapse has partnered with eMerge Americas (founded by Medina) on promoting the event.
“We have been working with eMerge Americas over four years and this partnership is influencing us for the Miami outreach [and vice-versa],” Kornfeld said. “We help see where each of our gaps are. We are giving each other a one-up.”