Startup founders have another reason to anxiously await an upcoming local pitch competition, as America’s largest electric utility is contributing $75,000 in prize money.
Officials with Florida Power and Light (FPL) and Synapse Florida announced a new partnership this week for Tampa’s 2023 Synapse Innovation Awards. Pamela Rauch, vice president of external affairs and economic development for FPL, said the utility believes the power of partnerships will propel the state’s startup ecosystem.
Synapse, a Tampa-based nonprofit, promotes awareness of and participation in Florida’s innovation community by connecting entrepreneurs, investors, companies, academia, policymakers and other stakeholders. Brian Kornfeld, CEO of Synapse, told the Catalyst that FPL realizes the value in spotlighting the state’s innovators.
“And also, for economic health,” added Kornfeld. “They see this as a way to help these companies with high potential to grow jobs … and as we continue to build jobs across the state of Florida, it only makes Florida a better place to grow, a better place to innovate and a better place for business.”
Synapse will award $75,000 to the top three scoring startups at its sixth annual summit Feb. 14, 2023, at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Award nominations are open to businesses in various stages, industries and technologies.
Categories include Community Impact, Emerging Technology, Tech Startup, Innovative Product and growth company. Hand-selected judges featuring business, industry and investment leaders from across the state will evaluate the entries and receive input from the “Synapse community” to select finalists.
Synapse accepts nominations through Jan. 13, 2023, and judging will commence that month. Top-scoring founders will present live on the center stage at Amalie Arena, with the winner receiving $50,000. The runner-up will take home $20,000, and $5,000 goes to third place.
“I think that means the world to these companies,” said Kornfeld. “These companies could live or die off a financial gain like this. It’s rewarding risk, its rewarding people who are solving true problems and it’s rewarding those who are very forward-thinking.”
According to an accompanying release, FPL serves more customers and sells more power than any other utility in America. Rauch called the partnership with Synapse a continuation of the company’s efforts to support local entrepreneurs. It launched 35 Mules, an innovation hub, in 2020 to “help bring startups’ game-changing ideas to life.”
Kornfeld said he noticed a dramatic increase in companies looking to disruptive innovation startups to help solve modern problems over the last two to three years. He added that an event like Synapse Summit is the perfect place for FPL to highlight some significant projects it is working on with innovators throughout Florida.
While Kornfeld said he looks forward to seeing over 300 exhibitions at the summit, he relayed that what excites him the most about the event is watching people interact.
“It’s always one of those very meaningful moments for me,” he said. “When I see people who are coming together for the first time – just smiling, hugging and making meaningful connections that will transform their career.”
The summit, Kornfeld noted, provides new job, partner and investment opportunities. He believes those connections truly matter, as does taking a day to celebrate the next generation of innovators.
He expects over 6,000 people to attend the event and encourages people to apply for the pitch competition. Many founders, Kornfeld explained, are further along the path to success than they realize.
He said that those unsure of their chances to win should still apply, as the worst-case scenario is they spend a little time and end up in the same spot. However, he believes the experience is too valuable to ignore and said part of being an entrepreneur is learning how to remain comfortable at uncomfortable times for the sake of success.
“Whether they win the cash prize or not, they’re all given the same opportunities for growth,” said Kornfeld. “It all is a big difference-maker for everybody that is participating.”
For more information about the Synapse Innovation Awards 2023, visit the website here.
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