Synapse Summit showcases the Sunshine State’s business ascendance
Like the rest of the country, Florida has had a challenging year. The state’s first coronavirus restrictions began more than a year ago. Companies, statewide, have had to adjust to a changing business environment.
The Sunshine State has met its enterprise challenges, drawing companies nationwide, since the coronavirus began. Like Texas, Florida has become a business-friendly safe haven for companies relocating from New York and California.
“Every day,” says Synapse Florida CEO, Brian Kornfeld, “it seems like another investment fund has moved to Miami, another company has relocated their headquarters to the Tampa Bay region, another company is doing something on the Space Coast and hiring talent. And so people are starting to take notice.”
Since its founding in 2018, the Tampa-based summit has grown into a technology and innovation mecca. Keynote speakers this year included NFL legends Jerry Rice and Steve Young.
“Football,” Rice says, “taught both Steve and [me] so many life lessons that we are thankful for. So we teamed up again, and launched our 8 to 80 Zones, to provide STEAM education and foster our students’ innate love of learning. We have partnered with NASEF [North America Scholastic Esports Federation] to offer each 8 to 80 Zone its programming free of charge. We are eager to bring our 8 to 80 Zones to Florida, and join the Synapse Summit, to shine a light on this important initiative.”
The summit was virtual and, thus, safe from the coronavirus. Summit participants were still able to network with Brella, a third-party software vendor that uses artificial intelligence to facilitate networking. The software connects users, via algorithms that determine their professional goals.
Synapse is a chance for Florida’s innovators, and entrepreneurs, to show off to the public. Over 300 companies, from across the state, participated in this year’s summit. With free general admission tickets to a virtual summit, it could not have been easier for out-of-state folks to attend. Those included keynote speaker Daymond John, founder and CEO of the apparel company FUBU.
“As an entrepreneur myself, I looked forward to participating in the Synapse Summit and sharing my expertise on how to grow a profitable business,” he says. “Through my journey, I’ve learned business is only as good as your connections and your resources. This is what makes Synapse inclusive. It’s always been my commitment to support the entrepreneurial community and with the recent hype surrounding innovative players relocating to Florida, I’m excited to join the conversation and also learn from the community in Florida on how they have built a hub for technology and innovation.”
The Tampa Bay area has become a hub, Kornfeld says, not only because of the weather and work-where-you-vacation lifestyle, but also due to the decreased crowdedness of the bay area. There’s more room to operate, and less traffic, than in bigger cities. Water Street Tampa, Midtown Tampa and other developments help make the city more walkable, something people want more of when looking for desirable places to move to.
It doesn’t hurt that people “can pay half the taxes to be here,” Kornfeld says, citing investment funds, and companies, that have moved their headquarters to the state. “You can do a lot more with a lot less when you can put more of your money to work in an effective, and efficient, manner. And so these companies are realizing that you don’t have to be in that major market to be successful.”
With the rise of remote work over the last year, senior executives have learned they don’t have to crowd their organizations into one small office to be in a massive market. Rather, many employees can work from almost anywhere.
In the still-expanding Tampa Bay area, innovators can make their impact felt more easily than in larger markets like Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Kornfeld anticipates that A-LIGN, ConnectWise, ReliaQuest and other Tampa-based, growth-stage, companies will reach new heights in the coming years. Their success will create a virtuous cycle of business development across the region.
The added net wealth will attract more investors to the area which will, in turn, lure top talent to Tampa. Kornfeld hopes that the summit will continue to celebrate, discover and engage innovators as it tells the world that innovation lives in Tampa Bay and the rest of the Sunshine State.
“We’re always going to be trying to drive to make Florida the world’s next great innovation community,” he says. “And as long as we can do that, as long as we stay focused on the overarching goal and we continue to innovate, and improve upon things, then we’re going to continually take chances and we’re going to continually improve.” ♦