An Interview with Brian Kornfeld, CEO of Synapse Florida

By Haley Tisone, Community Outreach Manager, Black Dog Venture Partners

Brian Kornfeld is the CEO and co-founder of Synapse Florida, a company designed to connect, organize, and celebrate innovations and innovators across the state in hopes to make Florida the best space to create and grow a company in the world. Kornfeld grew up in Clearwater, Florida and has a background in aerospace engineering. After college, he launched his first company in 2013 which, in his words, “failed miserably.” Yet, it taught him more than he could imagine, and he founded a second company. That company did well and then plateaued; wondering why and inspired by his own personal pains, Kornfeld was inspired to create Synapse.

Kornfeld did not feel enabled to start something in his community. Synapse combats this by bringing the community members together with their marquee event, Synapse Summit that hosts thousands. They also have an online platform called Synapse Connect and Synapse Challenges, their engaging methods of crowd-sourcing innovation.

When first starting Synapse, it was hard to gain initial buy-in from the community. Leaders feared they were trying to take over; however, Synapse was meant to highlight what was already there. The pandemic was another challenge, but they embraced the virtual world. Instead of trying to recreate in-person events, they redesigned events to be fit for virtual viewing. Synapse held three large virtual conferences and shifted from weekly webinars to more spread out, large-scale events.

In the future, Kornfeld hopes to grow Synapse in order to obtain high quality participants and more state-wide partnerships. He personally hopes to build a bigger team and eventually begin mentoring and investing in companies. Synapse has shifted from focusing on launching things in the virtual space to utilizing events for community building. Partnerships that create wins all around, even for the community, is what makes Synapse special.

Kornfeld advises start-ups to not be afraid to build a team and bring on partners. He says it is important to understand the problem you are solving, and become a part of the customer’s lives.

In his eyes, the Synapse Summit went great this year. He said that of course some things always go wrong, but to take them as lessons learned. This year’s event was the most energetic one yet, and the future of Synapse is bright!

When he’s not running Synapse, Kornfeld loves spending time with family. He coaches the baseball team of his twin boys. He likes sports and enjoys the great outdoors Florida has to offer. Kornfeld remembers that at the end of the day, life is about balance.

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