Episode 046

St Pete X features business and civic leaders in St. Petersburg Florida who share their insight, expertise and love of our special city. An initiative of the St. Petersburg Group, St Pete X strives to connect and elevate the city by sharing the voices of its citizens, and to bring awareness to the opportunities offered by the great St. Petersburg renaissance.


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09/05/2018 | Episode 046 | 27:57

Marc Blumenthal, Synapse

Marc Blumenthal talks Synapse origins, the recipe for a successful startup ecosystem and changing the conversation around capital

On this episode of SPx, Joe welcomes Marc Blumenthal, founder of Synapse and partner at Florida Funders. In this acumen-packed episode, Blumenthal shares his thoughts on the Tampa Bay startup community and the tipping point that brought him to found Synapse. He reflects on the inaugural Synapse Innovation Summit in March 2018, and how "scaling serendipity" through Synapse can cause high-value collisions that change the trajectory of a business. Get the low-down on the eight personas that propel entrepreneurial ecosystems forward, and two factors he looks for in founders when investing through Florida Funders.

Key Insights

  • Today's guest: Marc Blumenthal, a partner at Florida Funders and the executive director of Synapse, which brought its first Innovation Summit to Tampa Bay in March 2018.
  • Why create Synapse? "I was astounded by the quality, the talent, the commitment, the capital, the energy. I was also frustrated by a fragmentation; a lack of continuity to find what you're looking for."
  • "I couldn't deal with the problem not getting solved... we launched Synapse to be purpose-built organization for interconnecting innovation ecosystems... to kind of prescribe the solution on what the Kauffman Foundation report indicated."
  • Blumenthal says the missing piece so far has been a framework for scaling and recognizing the strengths and challenges of the Tampa MSA.
  • Despite a number of highly functioning area Chambers of Commerce, EDCs, and others, they are hyper local. They operate on fundamentally different scopes than the needs of the start up ecosystem or venture capital, or talent development - which are truly regional.
  • "In the early days of the startup ecosystem here, it usually starts with a lot of energy. Starts with events, and pitch competitions, and business plan competitions, and begging for investment capital, and co-working spaces, and accelerators and incubators, and all those things have developed beautifully."
  • The magic of Synapse: "You bring everybody in the same tent and wonderful collisions happen."
  • Blumenthal spent month researching entrepreneurial hubs across the world, including San Francisco, New York, and Tel Aviv. There is a mythology of organic growth or effortlessness around these cities. But Blumenthal argues that underlying the success are methodologies and frameworks that are followed today.
  • Example: Cintrifuge and The Power of Five in Cincinnati - "a phenomenal partnership between the city, the University, Procter & Gamble, Kroger, GE, EY, and how they purposefully laid down the foundation."
  • The five - are government, educational institutions, entrepreneurs, investors and corporations. Synapse created eight; adding talent, entrepreneurial support organizations and service providers.
  • Wins: "Plenty of people made a lot of money at Jabil, right? There's plenty of technology companies that have been $50-$500 million exits and some haven't exited yet, but have created a lot of wealth like a Connectwise."
  • "Each ecosystem ends up being lit on fire if you will, and propelled forward by one or more of those personas mentioned and not necessarily the same ones."
  • Scaling serendipity: "By making it a little easier, fewer degrees of separation to that right team member, the right, intern, the right investor, the right co-working space, the right event, you start to curate things where the likelihood of the high-value collision occurs."
  • Two things Blumenthal would like to see more: More bootstrapping. Proven customer base - "If you can demonstrate that customers want what you have, and that you’re scrappy and I willing to do what it takes, that gets you pretty far down the line. "
  • Florida Funders: "We started out doing $100,000 - $150,000 total investments. Today, we do like a million and a half, probably $750,000 to $1.5 million on average."
  • "We’re doing our part to dent the premise that used to be a part of the mantra of most entrepreneurs here some number of years ago, right? 'There’s not enough capital here.'"

"We’re not an EDC, we’re not a chamber, we’re not accelerator, we’re not an investment group, we’re not an entrepreneur, we’re not university, we’re not a company. We are just here to be the guide."

"We’re doing our part to dent the premise that used to be a part of the mantra of most entrepreneurs here some number of years ago, right? 'There’s not enough capital here.'"

Table of Contents

(0:00 – 2:52) Introduction

(2:52 – 4:00) Fixing an Injustice

(4:00 – 6:53) Fragmented Forces

(6:53 – 8:14) Mission Limitations

(8:14 – 9:46) Vision Evolution

(9:46 – 13:49) Tracing the Origins

(13:49 – 16:29) Company Wins

(16:29 – 19:02) Taglines

(19:02 – 20:37) Business Acumen

(20:37 – 22:15) Theoretical to Operational

(22:15 – 24:39) The Evolution

(24:39 – 26:16) The Future of Synapse

(26:16 – 27:20) Shoutouts

Full Transcript:

Joe: Joining me on St. Pete X today is Marc Blumenthal, who is one of the partners of Florida Funders and also the Executive Director of Synapse. Welcome.

Marc: Glad to be here.

Joe: So, Synapse is a huge undertaking and you have built and sold successful companies and you could have been on the beach right now, but instead, you’re trying to get into the muck of bringing everybody together in one place. Why did you decide to do that?

Marc: (laughs) Beach is boring.

Joe: Beach is boring, you’re right.

Marc: Beautiful but for short bursts for me. I, in my journey in running Florida Funders for almost 2 years looking for great companies to invest in and investors to engage, traveling around the great state of Florida and intensively traveling around the Tampa Bay area, I was astounded by the quality, the talent, the commitment, the capital, the energy. I was also frustrated by a fragmentation; a lack of continuity to find what you’re looking for. And in November of 2016, the Kauffman Foundation and the University of Tampa did a research project and it baselined or stack ranked the Tampa Bay Metro MSA against other markets in the country for our entrepreneurial ecosystem. And the the results of that report were deep and scatter diagrams and PhD’s doing their great research, and what that report did is it sort of validated my own anecdotal findings.

Marc: And that we have what it takes here, the resources are here, it’s just if there were some framework, if there were some organization and communication among all the parties that you’d actually rank much higher; you’d actually be a better place to build a company, a better place to come and work in innovation. That was a wonderful moment, and I looked around for anybody who would work on that (laughs) and everybody was really busy (laughs). Everybody wanted it, but there didn’t seem to be an organization that was ready, and I couldn’t deal with the problem not getting solved. So after about six months of deep studying with a great team of people and insight from a lot of wonderful people, we launched Synapse to be purpose-built organization for interconnecting innovation ecosystems, to make it happen to, kind of prescribe the solution on what the Kauffman Foundation report indicated.

Joe: I guess then you could say your drive is sort of, akin to fixing an injustice. It’s an injustice. We have what we need here to be successful and for some – just what should be relatively fixable reasons we’re not there, and so you see the other side of that opportunity and you’re trying to get is from an injustice state to a justice state.

Marc: Yeah, I mean you could argue that. I look at it in even more simplistic terms. The place that I want to grow old in, the place that I want to be a grandpa in, I want to ensure that my children and my grandchildren have the kind of opportunities that they want. My son now is in San Francisco working for Microsoft, I’d like him to be able come back here one day if he chose. So there’s a bit of a personal reason, there’s a bit of a vision of what this place can be, and what a lot of people every day are working toward. So this place was always gonna be a great place, right? It’s spectacular with great people, it just could be made even better, faster.

Joe: But you’re not the first person to say, “We need an overarching X.” People tried to do it in the nonprofit space. People have tried to do it in economic development. People tried to do it in start-up space.

Joe: What I found, at least in sort of a microcosms is that, mainly I think there hasn’t been a lot of financial support for those things here. People’s value systems changed a little bit. And so we work sometimes with the different districts that are here and they have well-established entrenched boards, and people who have with their blood, sweat, and tears built these districts up. Ideally, they want more visitors, more economic health to it. But at the same time, because that’s somewhat there, they sort of changed to what the reward is to just like a meaning, a general meaning they have. You actually see reactions where, if you come in as an outside force, and do something that works and brings in double the visitors, it’s not actually a positive experience for them because it’s not them doing it and it disrupts their value system. So, what’s you’re sort of take on these forces that keep us fragmented?

Marc: I would agree with you, in that there are some motivations that might preclude others having success if you will, but I think largely, it was the absence of a framework; an approach or a methodology that would scale to recognize sort of the unique things about Tampa Bay area and Florida as a whole. There are some characteristics about it that make it both fantastic and challenging. It’s geographically, very, very spread out and our economic development agencies and chambers and groups tend to be… They manage themselves or their mandate is either County city or district as you say. So their mandate is, by intent, narrow in scope. But yet, if you look at the early stage ecosystem and you look at investment of capital, and you look at talent development, and you look at innovation and corporate innovation, they really don’t have the same borders they don’t view the world through the same lens. So I think that what I’ve seen in organizations that have attempted to move the needle, many of whom have done spectacular work, their mandate and/or resources were incongruent with the bigger picture, the approach that we’re taking.

Marc: And in many cases, there wasn’t a holistic framework because if this is to work, when this works, it’s because all of the critical constituents or personas in the ecosystem are fully engaged. In the early days of the startup ecosystem here, it usually starts with a lot of energy. Starts with events, and pitch competitions, and business plan competitions, and begging for investment capital, and co-working spaces, and accelerators and incubators, and all those things have developed beautifully, more to do, but they’ve developed beautifully. But they tend not to be programmatically engaging for all the members of the ecosystem. What I observed in the early days is, there were always the same people. People were awesome but it doesn’t get bigger if it’s always the same people. Does that make sense?

Joe: Sure. But aren’t some of those personas that you’ve aptly identified, some of the ones that aren’t many of them, constrained by the same sort of mission limitations?

Marc: They are but there has never been an organization and prior to Synapse that its sole purpose was to meet their needs. So I think the opportunity is that whether there is an accelerator that’s funded by an EDC in, say St. Petersburg, that’s mandate is to have St. Petersburg headquarter companies, other organizations say an accelerator across the bay or an accelerator in Pasco County could be competition. From a Synapse perspective, we want to bring value. We want to meet all those constituents sort of where they’re at. We want to be able to bring them cohorts of companies. We want to be able to bring them investors or mentors. There is a plenty to go around. I think, to a certain extent, we view ourselves as Switzerland. We’re not any of those things; we’re not an EDC, we’re not a chamber, we’re not accelerator, we’re not an investment group, we’re not an entrepreneur, we’re not university, we’re not a company. We are just here to, sort of, be the guide.

Joe: And then once people are self-incented to get onto the platform, because it can serve their needs and they can use your assets and services and knowledge. Once they’re there, they’re probably gonna rub elbows with some of these other folks and when you do that good things happen.

Marc: Absolutely. You bring everybody in the same tent and wonderful collisions happen.

Joe: How has been the evolution of your vision from what you saw from the Kauffman Foundation report and then starting Synapse into be in the year down the road, has it been really consistent from what you expected or what’s changed?

Marc: It’s evolved. I think that it was the spring, summer May-June time frame of 2017 when in our, sort of, search and we traveled quite a bit to San Francisco and New York and to Tel Aviv and really looked at other ecosystems and said, “Well, what is it about them that make them so inviting, popular, well-capitalized?” Almost having this this mystique about how fantastic your life will be if you’re an entrepreneur in Austin, let’s say. We dug into sort of “why?” Why is that? What really happened there and what happens on a day-to-day basis to make it that way. I think the myth for a lot of these markets is, it was spontaneous or it was just a lot of smart people or a spectacular University and then a bunch of venture capital and those things are true, they usually do have spectacular universities and venture capital. But there were frameworks and methodologies that are followed today. Some of which are so organic that even the people who follow them don’t necessarily fully grasp why. They’ve just sort of become a part of the culture. But the idea that the university system and government, entrepreneurs, investors, mature companies, entrepreneurial support organizations, and talent kind of work together in this dance.

Joe: Were you able to trace those back to their origins and see who and how and what entities started those and how the group become successful?

Marc: Yeah, I we actually worked in reverse from newest thriving markets to oldest, which was kind of interesting because they were documented better.

Marc: So places like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which are different, but actually all – both very well established at this point, the best one that we were able to see sort of the story told with Cincinnati. The story was a research report done by EY called the Power of Five and it was a study of what has become a nonprofit organization called Cintrifuge.

Joe: Cintrifuge. Yeah, I’m familiar with it.

Marc: It really had a lot to do with the framework that was laid out and just a phenomenal partnership between the city, the University, Procter & Gamble, Kroger, GE, EY, and how they purposefully laid down the foundation. And in that report, they did a really, really good job of sort of laying down the methodology, and sort of naming constituents the five – are government educational institutions, entrepreneurs, investors and corporations, right? We ended up creating eight; we added talent, entrepreneurial support organizations and service providers, which we refer to as innovation enablers. We think they needed to be called out with special programming because it merits that. And they were very successful in particular in the CPG spaces. You would imagine what usually thrives in an ecosystem is what the big companies are good at the talent pool and there’s a demand for innovation in that space. And then when we did a lot of research, we started to realize that those things happened maybe not in the same order, maybe not as purposefully and well-documented as they did in Cincinnati, but it happened in Pittsburg, and it happened in Detroit. And in Silicon Valley, it actually just began in the 60s. Fairchild Semiconductor and Kleiner Perkins and they were the start in the way the talent was dealt with; in the way Stanford and Berkeley played a role were all critical. If you take any one of those pieces out of the puzzle, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work near as well. That was sort of the magic and we looked in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem, it was also a tremendously thriving ecosystem.

Marc: We saw that same kind of a thing where the University system and the government – the government’s incredibly involved in being supportive. In Tel Aviv was a phenomenal organization called startupnationcentral.org that actually acts as the concierge, the guide. Right? Tremendously well-resourced organization with a giant staff. But if you want to engage in the Israeli Innovation Early-stage Ecosystem, you just need to show up on their doorstep and they will take you around the entire country and introduce you to anyone you need to meet in order to achieve your objective. And so it was those, sort of, discoveries through 2017 that led us to sort of ink this idea, to call it Synapse to call it this highly valuable, quick connection that happens in our brains, to sort, of borrow from that and then to launch it premised on the idea that we were gonna have the most impactful purpose-built events produced like the Synapse Innovation Summit that we had in March 2018, and that we’re gonna do those on a regular basis. That we were going to publish these delightful coffee table books called innovate Tampa Bay and The Best Of Series to really meet those members of the community where there at sometimes in waiting rooms or sometimes as gifts so they can become inquisitive and go, “Aha! I had no idea this was going on.” To build the platform which we been working on for a year and we should be ready to release to general availability at the end of this year. To really create that first step on everybody’s journey, purpose-built, find what you’re looking for – people, organization, investment opportunities, accelerators, incubators, educational programs, events, innovation, challenges and innovation showcases all in one place. A sort of aggregated, not producing any of those ourselves, but aggregating all the fantastic things that are going on in your neighborhood, in your region, or in your state.

Joe: So as you look at all these different cities, the one I would call key stakeholder in the ecosystem that’s not mentioned we have mentioned yet is wins – companies that are worth 100 million or more and come out of there.

Joe: So I think a lot of these places that were successful came wins first, ecosystem second. And then as you started to understand the benefits of having this, then it became ecosystem first, wins second, hopefully wins followed. So I think that we’re lacking obviously, in Tampa Bay in wins. Were you able to find cities that still thrive without big wins and what are your expectations for the role that wins will play in Tampa Bay?

Marc: I think there are two kinds of wins. So if you look at Austin, Dell was the big win. Lots of Dell millionaires who, many of whom went to UT Austin, and then Austin Ventures, there was just a massive flow of wealthy technology people ready to do their next thing. So we’ve kinda had that, but it’s still quite a bit different. We’ve had lots of big wins across lots of different kinds of industries, some of which were technology. Plenty of people made a lot of money at Jabil, right? There’s plenty of technology companies that have been $50-$500 million exits and some haven’t exited yet, but have created a lot of wealth like a Connectwise. I think the second kind of a win really has to do with the win that keeps happening – the $100 million, $500 million-billion dollar valued earlier stage companies relatively new. Whether you want to call them unicorns or not. The visibility to those creates, sort of, a magnet like a vortex for the rest of the world to start paying attention. And so it is a measurement and we don’t have enough of that here today. Although there is more of it than is visible. I think that some of the regions have created a lot of value where any one of those constituents can be the lead igniter, right? Carnegie Mellon played a giant role in Pittsburgh’s, sort of, rebirth. I can’t speak specifically to whether there was one Dell-like company that exited there. I don’t think there was that somehow was the igniter. Each ecosystem ends up being lit on fire if you will, and propelled forward by one or more of those personas mentioned and not necessarily the same ones.

Marc: It was P&G or Procter & Gamble in Cinci. You could argue that Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel in the ‘60s fed the machine substantially and really put Silicon Valley on the map in the world of microprocessors, and ultimately in the world telecommunication. So it varies it’s defense innovation in Israel first and now on many other things.

Joe: So that dovetails into… You know one of your taglines is: Serendipity into intentionality. And by intentionally increasing the odds of serendipity, recognizing the any of these personas can be in the igniter you’re trying to increase the odds that one of them will be.

Marc: Absolutely. We’re trying to make it a little easier and a little faster, sort of, reduce some of the headwinds. And yes, magic happens. We all have the stories in our lives of how we found our cofounder; how we found our spouse. Many of the stories are serendipitous; how we found our investor. If not for this person at that time… And its delightful and we will never gonna stop having no serendipitous events. But they don’t necessarily scale for no a region or state, or economic development, and especially when were in this beautiful state of Florida that is probably far more known for tourism and hospitality, and real estate development, and other things – little bit of space and other things than it is for top of mind at major universities around the country where people are going, “I’m gonna build a startup. Where am I gonna do that?” Right? And I don’t think Florida is first on the breadth, I’m certain it’s not. So it’s a little harder here, but the beauty of it is by, sort of, scaling serendipity by making it a little easier, fewer degrees of separation to that right team member, the right, intern, the right investor, the right co-working space, the right event, you start to curate things where the likelihood of the high-value collision occurs and we had that happen in March.

Marc: Dozens of times that have been reported to me and it may be north of that. People relocated their business to be close to University of South Florida and their connect program, a Pharma company. I had people come from other cities and decided that they were gonna move here. We had with three companies get funded by people that they met there. Now, the check wasn’t written, there but it was written some number of weeks afterwards because the journey was somewhat curated. I like and I sometimes to my older friends who are my age, I say it’s sort of the difference between ladies night in the 70s where you just show up at a bar with a thousand people hope to meet the woman of your dreams or meet your spouse there. It can happen or what today, people use match.com and they actually know that this person likes sports and walks on the beach and lives in your town and similar values. And the odds of having a successful union are much greater when the journey’s curated. That’s we’re trying to do is provide little less noise, little more intentionality, and then let the magic happen.

Joe: I want to extract little business acumen from your head. With Florida Funders, you see lots and lots of companies, what do these young founders need to know? What do you want to put in their heads so they can be better when they come to you?

Marc: That’s a great question. So I think the last 12 months was a thousand companies at the top of the funnel. I don’t know that there is a universal there, but clearly I would say that one of the more common experiences that we have is someone is passionate around the problem that they’re solving which is, sort of,  paramount to entrepreneurship, but they’ve not proven it. They haven’t acquired customers, even a pilot. And so I would say two things universally would be nice to see more of – one is more bootstrapping, to figure out how to do it by no one taking any money or just a de minimis amount of money scrap and save and figure it out get through that first, sort of, perfect concept without taking money from people, if you can.

Marc: And if it’s money, make it friends and family money, don’t take Angel or institutional money too early. Then find customers to validate. There’s so many ways to talk to customers. Even hypothetically, but for sure, usually they’ll pilot something; build something, prove the value. If you can demonstrate that customers want what you have, and that you’re scrappy and I willing to do what it takes, that gets you pretty far down the line. There’s a whole lot of other things, in terms of addressable market, and team that have to be dealt with, of course. But I would say if I had to be asked, those are the, sort of, the two things that I would recommend.

Joe: So, one of the big hurdles that you cross when you get those customers is you, you cross the line from theoretical to operational and knowing that a founder can actually do that and not just be an idea, but actually run something in reality.

Marc: Absolutely. And again, even if it has to be a pilot, you don’t have to roll out 400,000 users, you can roll out a group of users and prove the value and then demonstrate that the company will adopt more as you reach proof points. So there’s a lot of different ways to go but, yes, from theoretical to operational is true.

Joe: So let’s talk a little bit about Florida Funders its kinda on a heater right now. Actually I was the COO of SavvyCard when you made your first ever investment way back in the day. It’s in the rearview mirror now. But, they’re still alive and kicking in. Yeah, I think all of the companies that Florida Funders has invested in are still kicking.

Marc: Yeah!

Joe: Which is a pretty amazing.

Marc: It is. We’ve not lost a single one. Statistically speaking, we should have.

Joe: Should’ve lost about half of them statistically, right?

Marc: Yeah. Well, I would say at least the third. The question is in how many years, right?

Joe: Right. And you’re about, what, four or five years now?

Marc: Yeah, it was Dave Chitester and Irv Cohen, and a couple other fantastic people that, I’m not sure exactly in what order – Lance Rabb, Randy Green who launched the idea before I was ever involved. I think that was 2013. Sometime in 2013, it went from in Dave’s head to a website.

Marc: I met them in late 2014, I invested in 2015. I think there were two investments SavvyCard and LumaStream. When I met that team and I got involved, and we’ve since made about 22 others, and we’re on a cadence to do, somewhere to the tune of 12 to 18 more every year.

Joe: And at that time it was just, “Here’s an idea. Hey, who wants in?” But now, you actually a fund that you’re directing.

Marc: Yeah, it has evolved quite a bit. We started out doing $100,000 – $150,000 total investments. Today, we do like a million and a half, probably $750,000 to $1.5 million on average. We’ve raised a fund that’s an $18 million committed capital fund. When you combine that with the crowd and the cadence and we run on average, about 1/3 from the fund and 2/3 from the crowd, we can vary a little bit. That’s what we try to do from the beginning. So if we are doing $1 million raise, we probably have $350,000 or so from the fund, and $650,000 or so from the crowd. And we tend to oversubscribe every deal now so that’s like having $50 million of dry powder to invest in Florida early stage companies and that’s before we launch this Seed Florida Initiative in partnership with USF. And before we launched the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator portal and other partnerships that we have, it’s evolved quite a bit. We have at least a dozen full-time people and then another sort of two dozen people who spend a considerable amount of time in sort of a – I call them volunteers but they’re investors, right? They’re committed in there and they don’t need to have a job there. They love what we do and we’re putting our footprint and expanding across the state in Orlando, in South Florida, with offices. We did the acquisition of Florida Angel Nexus in August and now we have more team members and about 100 more investors, and even more deal flow, and it’s spectacular what’s happening. We’re doing our part to dent the premise that used to be a part of the mantra of most entrepreneurs here some number of years ago, you heard it from David many times, right? “There’s not enough capital here. There’s not enough people willing to invest money.” We set out at Florida Funders to change that. And today, a good deal gets done. Period.

Marc: We’ve not not been able to do a good deal. There is still work to be done especially at the seed stage, which is why we’re re-launching Seed Florida, but generally, investable deals get fully invested and no one that I know of, not even our mature, B- round companies like Homee On Demand and Peerfit, and our A-round of companies like PickUpNow are being asked to go somewhere for money. They get money from out-of-state – from Philadelphia, from Atlanta, from the West Coast, but no one is saying leave Florida or leave Tampa Bay in order to get the money. They recognize that things have changed quite a bit in the last couple of years.

Joe: Yeah, it’s huge. Retention is one of the biggest problems. The minute they had a sniff of success, they were out of here. So congratulations on that. So for you personally, then you have obviously, Synapse is just sort of the beginning of its journey and Florida Funders is killing it. Is this the next 5 to 10 years from you or if you had to look forward, do you think you have another specific company building in you or…?

Marc: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think about that a lot. If there’s one thing that I miss when you’re running an operating company, it is a very interesting kind of a delightful train ride at like 120 miles an hour. You can’t really get off, but at same time, you’re committed, like you never question anything because you’re committed and the intensity and the wins are really like adrenaline for me. The cool part for me now is that between Florida Funders and Synapse, Synapse of nonprofit, I still have the intensity in the wins, like when a partner comes on board, a board member sponsor and exhibitor when I hear the stories of people having success like My Area Networks raise money and the gratitude and that the sort of the completion sort of feeds my need. So I don’t see another operating company in my future. I love what I do now which is I am very active board member for some younger entrepreneurs who take that baton take a little bit of my advice and counsel you know do with it what they see fit, and run hard.

Marc: And I feel like that sort of my role in life, and I’m okay with that. And hopefully… and I’m 54. So, sometime in these next five or 10 years, I can spend old time with my as yet not arrived grandchildren. (Laughs) But we’ll see, you’ll never know.

Joe: Wonderful. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. We finish each show with a shout out so someone that is doing great work that could use a little extra attention for what they’re doing, it can be more than one person but who would you like to give a shout out to?

Marc: At Synapse we’ve been able to accomplish what many pundits in January of this year said was impossible. Most of the people who talk to us said, “You should just cancel the event and not do it in March and save yourself the embarrassment and all the money you’re gonna lose.” Despite that, my team, Brian Kornfeld and Lauren Prager and Shannon _____, and a host of probably what was 40 volunteers and then days of 300 volunteers. We broke all the rules and created a great event and we have an incredibly hard-working functioning team. I’m with them every day, and they do spectacular work, and they show up full out and drive toward the mission so it’s a lot of fun and I would not be on these programs and we would not be successful in the absence of people like Brian and Lauren.

Joe: Wonderful. Thank you for time.

Marc: My pleasure, thank you.

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About the host

Joe Hamilton is the CEO of Big Sea and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group.  Joe brings a strong acumen for strategy and positioning businesses. He serves on several local boards, including TEDx Tampa Bay, which grew his desire to build a platform where the area’s thought leaders could share their valuable insight with the community at large.


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