synapse team 2018-02-20T21:43:04+00:00

synapse team

An experienced and diverse group of talent all with one goal in mind: improve the Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Synapse team includes seasoned entrepreneurs, service providers, investors, corporate workers, marketers, and more. The team is dedicated to the greater good of the outcome and is looking forward to seeing the results.

Marc Blumenthal is a serial entrepreneur and visionary leader in the technology industry, as well as an active investor in early-stage companies, providing advice and counsel to their founders. With his three decades of experience in the world of startups, Blumenthal was a natural choice to serve as CEO for Florida Funders where he is also an investor-member and serves on the company’s Board of Managers. Blumenthal is best known for acquiring in 2000 a small company called Intelladon, building it into a leading provider of online learning and talent management services throughout North America and Europe, and selling the company in 2013 to Tribridge, a large Microsoft systems integrator and consulting firm. In addition to his investment in Florida Funders, Marc has invested in That’s Us Technologies, SiteWit and over a dozen other private companies. Born and raised in Toms River, N.J., Blumenthal is a 1985 graduate of University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems. For the past 33 years, he has lived in Tampa, FL, with his wife, Karen, and three children, Alyssa, Adam, and Claire. He serves on several local company boards and enjoys supporting local charities and the University of South Florida, where he serves on the USF Muma College of Business Executive Advisory Council.

Andy Hafer has spent his career in technology. The first part of his career was in corporate IT, but he has been a serial entrepreneur for the past 14 years. He founded and currently serves as CEO of Dynamic Communities, Inc., an association management corporation specializing in building communities where constituencies add value to each other through peer to peer learning and knowledge sharing. Hafer also founded DCE Productions, a full-service event and video services company. DCE brings high quality AV, videography, and other digital features to corporate, social, and philanthropic events. Hafer previously served as CEO & President of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF). TBTF is a professional association of technology and business leaders dedicated to growing and promoting Tampa Bay’s technology “eco-system.” Prior stops in Andy Hafer’s career include CIO of Pride Enterprises, a mid-sized manufacturing company; Practice Director for Tribridge, Inc., a professional services firm, specializing in Business and Technology consulting. CIO of Yara, an $800 million manufacturer and wholesale distributor of agricultural and industrial chemicals; senior consultant with Accenture; a consulting firm; process control engineer for Proctor and Gamble; and IBM. Hafer received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla. His growing companies have spent four straight years in the top 25 of the USF Fast 56 – highlighting the fastest growing Bull-owned companies in the world. Among his accolades, in 2004, Andy received the most esteemed CEO’s Leadership Award from PRIDE Enterprises. Andy was distinguished as University of South Florida Alumnus of the Year in 1996. Andy was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania but raised a Floridian since age 5. He enjoys boating, fishing, and most outdoors activities. He lives in Tampa with his wife Eileen and children Thomas, Matthew, and Alexis.

Brian Kornfeld is an experienced entrepreneur and leader of software, hardware, and integrated engineering developments. He is the owner of PopKorn Apps, LLC, a mobile application development company geared at helping entrepreneurs see their vision become a reality at an affordable price. PopKorn Apps works as its own start-up incubator, helping people with ideas get them developed and to market while providing necessary guidance and business consulting to new entrepreneurs. Brian is certified in multiple facets of project management, as well as being a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Lean Expert. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, the University of Florida with a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, and the University of South Florida with a Master’s in Business Administration with a focus on Executive Leadership. Brian has been a Chief Technology Officer, Chief Operations Officer, and shareholder in multiple startups while leading development of the first application to be released to the public. As the founder and CEO of PopKorn Apps, Brian now focuses on Lean development while working to achieve high goals, and growth of business ideas to help an entrepreneur take a vision and make it a reality. Brian serves on the advisory board of the University of South Florida Executive MBA Program.

Shannon Pastizzo has invested an extensive career identifying the financial needs of healthcare employees and their families and promoting programs to meet those needs for a financial institution in central Connecticut. Her more recent experience involved creating and orchestrating marketing and business development initiatives that were professional, creative, successful and proven advantageous to both the business and the consumer.

She brings a varied background that includes marketing, strategic planning, business strategy and analysis. Other attributes include social media, event planning, public relations and business development as well as vendor relations and vendor negotiations, financial planning and profit analysis. She won four consecutive Connecticut wide Marketing Excellence Awards.

In addition, she was the Director of Figure Skating at the International Skating Center of Connecticut for a number of years, including the Learn to Skate program, hiring, managing, mentoring, and coaching a team of amateur skaters and professional skating coaches. During her involvement, they increased enrollment by 80% and were recognized as a top 100 program in the USA.

She has developed tremendous communication skills, and exhibits an uncanny ability to match the needs of a diverse community with systems that are available. She often invents new programs and frequently modifies existing ones. Her desire to be part of a team of visionaries whose goals are improving Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is a perfect match for her win-win approach.

Shannon graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. She is also a Certified Financial Counselor. Shannon is new to the Tampa Bay area and sees this as a wonderful opportunity to “meet and greet” many interesting people. She lives in the Tampa area with her husband, Gary and her two children, Mitchell and Lexi.

Rachel Fisher is an entrepreneur and co-founder of EDTRAININCCENTER, an educational technology company that was acquired by Frontline Education, the HCM leader in the K12 space, in 2016. Over the 18 months that followed, she worked as part of the Frontline Education team as it grew from 75 to 700 employees, culminating in the sale of the company at “unicorn” valuation to Thoma Bravo in 2017. She brings two decades of experience in educational and SaaS technologies to her work with early stage companies and as a member of Florida Funders she’s committed to supporting the growth of local businesses that are creative and prosperous. Though she was born outside of Philadelphia, Rachel has called the Tampa Bay area home for close to two decades.

Ned Pope is a 5th generation Floridian who specializes in civic implementation and technology deployment.

In his current role as with global data science leader Nielsen he is currently serving as the Project Lead on the Global Update. Prior to joining Nielsen, Pope directed civic innovation and economic relief programs for the State of Florida CFO, Fannie Mae, and the State of Oregon among others.

His volunteer activities include serving as President of the Florida Next Foundation, Chair of TechStart Tampa Bay, Regional Chair of Leadership Florida Connect, and Board Member of OnBikes. He is also a minority owner in the Young Parisians Artist Collective & Record Label and founder of the Florida-Based Civic Innovation Partners.

Ned is a graduate of Georgia Southern University, BS Print/Publishing Management and The Florida State University, MS in Interactive Technology. He lives in Tampa with his wife Merris, daughter Avery, and son Miles.

Gregg Hilferding, owner of GreenBarLabs, brings 20 years of web design, development, and internet marketing experience to every project his agency takes on. GreenBarLabs specializes in custom web development and adds value through Gregg’s ability to quickly understand how each project fits into each client’s larger organizational goals. GreenBarLabs clients include multiple startups in the Tampa Bay area.

Gregg is also a U.S. Army Veteran, an Eagle Scout, and an active volunteer with Scouting, serving in a variety of roles in the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council.

Dori Levy is a product and marketing consultant specializing in technology start-ups and communities. She spent 4+ years working in product management, marketing and revenue operations for Graphiq, a data-visualization technology start-up based in Santa Barbara, California. Dori was responsible for launching new growth initiatives, including a high-volume customer acquisition program and the development of a monetized data-visualization tool for publishers. In May 2017, Graphiq was acquired by Amazon to help power the intelligence behind the voice assistant, Alexa. Following the acquisition, Dori relocated to Tampa, Florida and launched Bayshore Strategy, an independent consulting firm focused on helping businesses grow their presence through effective product and marketing strategies. 

Dori is a graduate of Duke University with degrees in Psychology & Markets and Management Studies. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, reading, and (despite a lack of talent) painting.

Growing up as the 5th generation on a family farm, Wes Lehman never imagined his office chair would be anything more than a tractor seat. During a stint as a musician in a budding country band, Wes took on the roles of social media marketing and fell in love with the world of digital communications. Wes launched Urban Buffalo Marketing in 2015 with the goal of allowing businesses to fully project their voice and persona across every online platform.

Since launching his company and working with businesses across the country, Wes has also had his hand as a co-founder of What Not Events, helping bring elite level wedding and events services through out the Tampa Bay Area. Wes spends the rest of his time playing music, working with youth groups, and exploring the great nature and cities of Florida.

Sven is a global publishing entrepreneur with a career that spans 20 years visiting more than 100 countries. He was born in Antwerp, Belgium and grew up in Durban South Africa. Soon after he completed his business and media studies in Cape Town he opened his first media company publishing the trade and industry directories for South Africa. Before he turned 30, he moved his business model to New Zealand and Australia for a number of years and from there he moved to Dubai where he first launched the ‘Best of’ the World series. Fast forward 10 years and 171 ‘Best of’ editions across 60 countries later he meets a girl on a valentine’s pub crawl in Ybor while on vacation in Tampa. Sven is now happily married to his wife Christina and her dog Max making Tampa Bay his final city of choice to live.

Amy has over 17 years of experience in strategic leadership, event strategy, and management. She began her career in non-profit and growing membership organizations, transitioning to for-profits in 2005. She currently works with Dynamic Communities leading the program and event strategy teams. In this role, Amy has grown the company’s annual Summit event from 2,000 attendees in 2012 to nearly 7,000 in 2017. Not only has Amy been instrumental in the growth of this major event, but also has expanded the events portfolio to increase satisfaction to community members.

Prior to the role at Dynamic Communities, Amy served as the CEO of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum for 4 years, also driving growth and putting the organization on the path that has made it successful today. Amy also has multiple years of experience in event management with such tasks as working with Boards of Directors, budget management, project management, conference management, contract negotiations, logistics, and strategy development.

Amy is a graduate of USF and a Florida native, thus further driving her push to strengthen the regional innovation ecosystem. When she is not working, you can find her spending time with her husband, sons, and labradoodle.

Jim Barnish is a strategic agile change agent with 10+ years of global, strategic, and integrated operations, sales, finance, and marketing experience – guiding organizations in the effort to reinvent themselves. As a high-energy, hands-on leader with exceptional critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills, Jim exhibits excellent leadership qualities evidenced by quick promotions and managerial experience. His experience spans high growth environments and turnaround situations ranging from stage companies through Fortune 100 companies.

Over the course of Jim’s career, he has successfully worked with organizations undergoing accelerated business development, agile change, change management, organizational re-design, digital marketing implementation, as well as strategic brand and operational transformation initiatives. Jim excels in his ability to continually leverage his collaborative skill set to get a true understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives and target audience’s needs to create an effective and balanced go-to-market approach. A key component of Jim’s responsibilities has involved engaging with business units and country teams to educate them on how corporate teams can be used as a strategic partner in operations and more importantly, enabling them with the tools and resources to implement their strategic initiatives successfully.

Hugh Campbell
Hugh S. Campbell is a Founder and Owner of AC4S. AC4S is an award winning Professional Services company which has generated over $350 Million dollars in revenues over the last 15 years. His latest venture is a Hybrid Cloud Solutions company – AC4S Technologies – which helps companies migrate to the Cloud. He is also the President of Palm Global Services, Ltd with its Head Office in the British Virgin Islands with an international cadre of over 160 employees overseas.

Hugh has started 5 companies and sold two. The first company he started was with Venture Capitalists based in New York City during the Dotcom era. He has also started three other companies – two of which have grown into multi-million dollar companies – with his own resources.

Prior to starting AC4S, he was a Co-Founder and Vice President of Engineering for Accelacom, Inc. – a high speed internet company funded by the Venture Capital firm Dolphin Equity Partners based in New York. Prior to that post, he served Intermedia Communications as the Director of Engineering for that company’s nationwide data communications network, supporting thousands of customers and generating revenues of over $200 million annually.

Mr. Campbell is a 1988 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and he holds a M.S. in Telecommunications Management from Golden Gate University. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the CEO Council of Tampa Bay and St Joseph Hospital. He is a member of the IT Senior Manager’s Forum (ITSMF) and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He also serves on the Keiser University Advisory Board for Cybersecurity.

Tahisia Scantling
Tahisia received her Bachelor of Applied Science from St. Petersburg College. She recently graduated from the University of West Florida with her Master’s Degree of Administration and her Master’s Certificate in Not-For-Profit Administration. She is currently working on her certification as a Business Advisor through the Master’s program at University of Toledo.

Tahisia Scantling, is an Independent Small Business Consultant. She works closely with the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation (TBBBIC). She oversees the new small business program called CATCH and the BBIC Incubator. Tahisia is also a Certified Short Sale, Foreclosure & REO (SFR) Real Estate Agent. Mrs. Scantling has over 20 years of experience in commercial & retail banking, sales and customer service.

Over the years, Tahisia has served as a board member and volunteered for a number of organizations. She was the past president for the Board of Directors for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Family Center in Clearwater and a grant writer for the Board of Directors for the Coquina Key Neighborhood Association. She also serves on the advisory board for Habitat for Humanity and the YMCA.

Saru Seshadri
Saru Seshadri is the COO of FIBA and is responsible defining all its strategies, creating and executing the program offerings of FIBA. He brings a wealth of technology strategy, entrepreneurial and startup eco system experience prior to joining FIBA. Saru has 20+ years international technology experience in a variety of roles and industry segments. He founded Ultramatics, Inc. serving as the President and CEO and led the company through a period of intensive growth to become a top partner for IBM in Complex Integration. Ultramatics was recognized with the prestigious IBM Beacon Award for excellence in delivering Service Oriented Architecture. Prior to Ultramatics, he has worked in various capacities in CommerceQuest, Momentum Software Corporation, AT&T, Universal Card Services and Philips Information Systems, Netherlands. Saru is also a serial entrepreneur with interests in training and software businesses and an active investor. He was one of the key executives responsible for the Thunderdome Project, a non-profit effort, that brought him to FIBA.