Synapse spotlight: Top takeaways from investors

By Lauren Coffey  – Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Jan 24, 2019, 2:23pm EST


Synapse Summit Day Two kicked off with a focus on the driving force behind the innovation that the summit hopes to foster: investment.

Experts and investors from the Tampa Bay area and beyond gathered Thursday morning at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa to discuss not only how entrepreneurs can get ahead in the ecosystem with or without venture capital, but also what should be the focus for Tampa Bay investors.

  • Sandy Murman, Hillsborough County Commissioner, believes this year should be used to continue the momentum that has built in the area in the past few years.

“Our talent is growing, the workforce is growing leaps and bounds,” she said. “Our companies are growing and we need to give assurance to entrepreneurs that we can ensure this momentum. It’s very important to have a sustainable, exciting effort for them. It’s why events are so important to get that word out. This is the year all our hard work pays off with more jobs, more infrastructure and more investment.”

  • Larry Quinlan, global chief information officer for Deloitte, focused less on the importance of money and more on the importance of people.

“I’m at a conference where I should talk about blockchain and AI and all that, but what I have to say is it’s all about people,” he said. “The people who are involved in driving the innovation are just as important — or more — as the innovation. The best people don’t choose to be where the best technology is; they also want to be in an environment where they can grow, they’re trusted, they can speak their minds and fulfill their aspirations.”

  • Steve Barsh, managing partner for Dreamit Ventures, urged entrepreneurs that when it comes to venture capital they should find a way to work around the perceived lack of funds or find a different route entirely.

“Stop blaming local capital because as entrepreneurs, when we see a problem what do we do? We fix it, we go around it,” Barsh said. “Investment lives here; it can live in Tampa. Don’t say, ‘We’ll build a million-dollar company, we just can’t find venture capital.’ I want you to focus on how much you’re raising capital versus selling.”

  • Jake Seid, a tech investor in San Francisco, was part of a four-person panel that discussed a slew of investing.

“Really, this is my first exposure to the Florida tech scene and it’s been eye opening,” Seid said. “I have been investing outside of the Valley and some places like Europe, but the thing I’ve been impressed with is amount of talent coming out of universities. It’s a great place to live and be based. Companies don’t want to be based in the Valley because it’s too expensive. I think here is a great opportunity and Magic Leap moved 400 families; so I think there’s more and more opportunity.”

  • Steve MacDonald, former CEO of myMatrixx and current Florida Funders partner

“Oftentimes, entrepreneurs put a lot of focus in early stage funding and they lose sight of what they’re building and why they’re building it,” MacDonald said. “There’s a big banner of, ‘I raised $10 million, $15 million, $20 million,’ and in the long run a lot of businesses don’t need that much money. More money can create more problems because you’re not looking at the details closely and you have your back against the wall.”