Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read August 2019 — The growth of Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is a testament to the boom of innovation, collaboration and economic rise that the region is experiencing. The key to keeping this growth sustainable comes down to multiple factors, including attracting more venture capital into the region, improving connectivity between startups and the continuous marketing of Tampa Bay as the place to start a business. One of the leading forces behind Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization known as Synapse. Invest: Tampa Bay recently sat down with President and Co-Founder of Synapse Brian Kornfeld to discuss how the organization is attracting and retaining quality talent, how their program Synapse Connect will help to improve connectivity between entrepreneurs, the key to attracting more venture capital to Tampa Bay and the challenges still facing the startup community.
How is Synapse working to help retain quality talent in the Tampa Bay workforce ecosystem?
Talent is one of the most important focus areas for Synapse because talent attraction and retention in Florida are vital to our future. Synapse helps to tell the top stories of growth and success on a statewide and national level. This helps to ensure people know about all the great things happening in Tampa Bay. We enable connections between talent, startups, and companies through our Synapse Summit, Synapse Challenges, and the Synapse Connect digital platform. By enabling the right stories and the right connections to take place, people can truly see a bright future in Tampa Bay.
How is Synapse Connect helping to connect entrepreneurs and bring their ideas to life?
When we first started Synapse, the idea was this platform that has become Synapse Connect. The thought of running a conference was not even on our radar, so it is interesting that our conference is what we are now best known for while Connect is still up and coming. The goal is that in the future Synapse Connect will be at the center of Florida’s innovation community. It will be the logical first step when somebody joins the innovation community, so they can find what they need or share what they have. We feel it will be vital because the geographic regions in Florida are so separate. If we can shrink the state virtually than we can help people find the right resources no matter where they may be physically located.
What is the key to attracting venture capital to Tampa Bay?
Steve Case, founder of AOL, noted that 75% of venture capital is spent in San Francisco, New York, and Boston. That is three markets receiving 75% of all available venture capital in this country, while the state of Florida only sees 3% of all venture capital. One of the main reasons we do not see more venture capital across the state is because we do not have the volume and critical mass of startups quite yet. This will change in Florida as we are starting to see more people rapidly getting into the startup and innovation worlds. As more quality companies build and grow, we will see more money put to work. Organizations like Florida Funders are doing a great job as the leading edge and thinking differently on investing, helping to enable and encourage more of the state’s accredited investors to get involved.
What is the most notable challenge facing the startup and entrepreneurial community in Tampa Bay?
Part of the challenge with the startup community in Tampa Bay is trying to find our identity. We are pretty wide in terms of the different industries that we are trying to service, but we need to focus our efforts on being great in just a couple areas. This will allow us to be an inch wide and a mile deep. We have core leading industries, such as cybersecurity, digital health, and financial tech. We need to continue to play to our strengths. Startup companies also need to be educated on how to build for a customer’s needs, to solve a problem and learn how to create a product better than their competitors. After these companies have mastered this, then they can learn how to grow and scale.
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