Over 3,500 participants, 50 speakers, and 257 exhibitors attended the recently concluded Synapse Innovation Summit at the Amalie Arena in Downtown Tampa on March 28 and 29. The event successfully brought together innovators, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and influencers to reinvigorate and connect Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The area is being primed to become a central hub for innovation and technology over the next 20 years. The ultimate goal is to make Tampa Bay America’s new Silicon Valley ; a place where startups go because of a well-developed virtual support system for businesses big and small.

The 2018 Summit included 15 hours of programs and 55 breakout sessions where participants eagerly interacted with speakers and industry thought leaders. Attendees also connected with fellow entrepreneurs to share experiences and find out how they can come together to help the cause.

Laying the Groundwork for the City of the Future

Synapse is led by a number of respected entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial service providers, and investors from Tampa Bay.  Synapse wants to connect what they refer to as eight personas: investors, entrepreneurs, talents, educational institutions, innovation enablers, entrepreneur support organizations, corporations and the government. Through Synapse’s online platform, these key personas can log in and identify attributes or elements regarding their skills and experiences, as well as what their goals are and how they want to make them a reality.

The bold idea offers startups and entrepreneurs the ability to find the people and companies, mentors and talent, all within one integrated circle.

Tampa Bay is on its way to becoming the city of the future. It is poised for a massive uplift thanks to a $3 billion project spearheaded by Bill Gates and local businessman Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In a recent interview with Bold Business, Vinik stressed that the challenge is to bridge the gap and bring innovation to a higher level.

“The Tampa Bay region is going to be the fastest growing area of the country in the next 20 years,” he said, adding that Tampa can lead Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in five to 10 years.

Arnie Bellini, CEO of Tampa-based Connectwise said Synapse “would become a tipping point for connecting all that needs to be connected here in Tampa Bay and hopefully Florida to create the next Silicon Valley”.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn believes that bringing together all the components will create a magical mix that will drive Tampa’s economy.

“This is our future. Synapse represents for me what Tampa’s next chapter looks like,” Buckhorn said.

Developments and Innovations

Tampa Bay already has plenty of these two ingredients: entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of community. The enthusiasm and eagerness of the business community is matched by the willingness of established businesses to share knowledge and create infrastructure that will help startups grow.

For Tampa, transportation is a key player and companies along with the government are working hard on a solution.

Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Technologies, talked about the promising future of transportation in the area. The multi-million dollar company is turning the idea of traveling in tubes at the speed of sound a reality. The technology is powered by magnets and sunlight, and will radically change how people travel over the next few years.

“We’re in 2018. We have a lot of technology. We are innovating daily. I feel that entrepreneurship can bring a lot of these solutions,” Ahlborn said.

Synapse spokesman Cesar Hernandez added that there have been exploratory talks on having a Hyperloop system built in Tampa, but they would need to look at the feasibility of such a massive project.

Stronger Networks, Closer Ties

Having concluded its second year, Synapse is drumming even more support from the business community.

Sara Margulis, CEO and Co-Founder of Honeyfund said the event was “an amazing opportunity to network and hear about all of the efforts and all of the different organizations and groups that are contributing to a really burgeoning technology scene here”.

The event brought together people from various backgrounds to create a living, breathing ecosystem for business in Tampa and ultimately all of Florida.

“I’m really excited to see this much effort and this many people in one place all focused on entrepreneurship and technology,” said Kasra Moshkani, General Manager Southeast US for Uber Technologies.

The annual Synapse Innovation Summit is kicking off its bold advocacy of empowering Tampa’s innovation ecosystem and ensuring the future of its business community. Tampa Bay’s potential of becoming the next silicon valley will continue to be worked on a daily basis going forward.

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