Heavy hitters join Synapse inaugural board

Representatives from BayCare Health System, Publix Super Markets, University of South Florida and a retired major general are all part of the inaugural board of advisors and directors for Synapse, a Tampa-based accelerator group.

If that group seems broad, that is exactly Synapse's point.

"It's critical to have a solid representation from all the people and organizations that represent the eight roles of innovation personas," Synapse Co-founder and Executive Director Marc Blumenthal said. "Every thriving innovation community has those eight groups that collaborate and work together. So in other words, we went around and wanted to make sure we had deep representation with people that had same sort of vision from Tampa Bay and Florida."

Tim Schar, president for the Tampa and Southwest Florida markets of SunTrust Bank, was chosen as the first chairman for the board.

"Tim Schar came from Silicon Valley so he knows what's possible," Blumenthal said. "Not that we're trying to be exactly like Silicon Valley, but there's a way they all work together that creates the incredible driving innovation economy. He stepped up in a big way early on."

While the board of directors have not yet been chosen from the 40 participants, Blumenthal hopes each of the companies will not only be able to help better implement connectivity throughout Tampa's ecosystem, but the state as well.

"The broader context is to commit to engaging in the innovation ecosystem and lead by example within organizations to do things like innovation challenges, working with universities more closely and supporting innovation and entrepreneurs more than they would otherwise," Blumenthal said. "It's not so much there's special board duties; they stepped up to promote these priorities that help to create communities we all want to live in and work in."

He hopes the participation creates a win-win for companies, both in what they can give and get back.

"If you change the narrative so that Florida is as well-known with innovation and entrepreneurs as beaches tourism and agriculture, it makes it a lot easier for companies — even the big ones — to attract and retain talent," he said. "So they’re all in."

The 40 individuals on the board are:


  • BayCare Health System — Craig Anderson, director of innovation
  • BNY Mellon Wealth Management — Christopher Swink, vice president, senior wealth director
  • ConnectWise — Arnie Bellini, founder and CEO
  • Dali Museum — Hank Hine, executive director 
  • Deloitte — Angela Moore, managing director 
  • Florida Blue — Dave Pizzo, market president, West Florida region and Ioulia Kachirskaia, GuideWell Innovation director
  • Grow Financial — Thomas Feindt, executive VP, and Chip Caddell, SVP, information technology
  • Jabil — Scott Gebicke, head of global energy and industrial sector
  • Publix — Leila Blacking, senior strategy team leader
  • Metropolitan Ministries — Tim Marks, president and CEO
  • Straz Center for Performing Arts — Judy Lisi, CEO
  • SunTrust Bank — Tim Schar, president, Tampa Bay market
  • Tampa Bay Business Journal — Ian Anderson, publisher and market president 

Innovation Enablers

  • Ark Applications and PAR Inc. — Dan Greco, managing partner
  • Cherry Bekaert — Chris Rux, managing partner
  • Holland & Knight — Brandon Faulkner, litigation partner, and Brad Kimbro, executive partner
  • Hunter Business Law — Sheryl Hunter
  • McIntyre Thanasides — Richard McIntyre, attorney
  • Morgan Hill Partners — Jim Barnish, general partner
  • Schifino Lee Advertising & Branding — Paola Schifino, principal and co-founder
  • Skoda Minotti — Ben Osbrach, partner
  • Synapse — Marc Blumenthal, executive director; Brian Kornfeld, president and co-founder; and Ned Pope, civic innovation and implementation specialist
  • Tucker Hall — Bill Carlson, president


  • Florida Funders — Tom Wallace, managing director


  • Qualified Meetings — Matt Wheeler, CEO and co-founder
  • Dynamic Communities — Andy Hafer, CEO and founder

Educational Institutions

  • Florida Polytechnic University — Kevin Aspegren, VP of advancement and CEO of the Florida Poly Foundation  
  • Ultimate Medical Academy — Jeremy Wilson, CIO
  • University of Tampa — James Zebrowski, managing director, Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization
  • University of South Florida College of Engineering — Robert Bishop, dean
  • USF Muma College of Business — Moez Limayem, dean
  • USF Research & Innovation — Paul Sanberg, senior vice president 

Entrepreneur Support Organizations

  • Embarc Collective — Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO
  • !P Innovation Partnership — Mark Sharpe, executive director
  • Tampa Bay Innovation Center — Tonya Elmore, president and CEO
  • Tampa Bay Tech — Daniel James Scott, COO and executive director
  • Tampa Bay Wave — Richard Heruska, interim accelerator director


  • Florida State Representative — Jamie Grant
  • Hillsborough County Economic Development — Jennifer Whelihan, economic development manager
  • Major General David Scott (Ret.)

Published in the Tampa Bay Business Journal: By  – Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal