In the spring of 2016, Brian Kornfeld attended an Executive MBA program event at USF where he had earned an MBA two years earlier. The guest speaker that day was Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, a driving force behind Tampa’s downtown redevelopment.
Kornfeld, a Clearwater native, had returned to the Tampa Bay region several years earlier and was trying to gain his footing in the startup economy. His first venture: a personalized recommendation engine he launched in 2013 that he said “failed miserably.”
Applying lessons from that experience, Kornfeld launched a second company that was more successful, but had plateaued. By the time he attended Vinik’s talk, Kornfeld was searching for reasons behind the challenges facing company founders in a stagnant innovation market.
Vinik wrapped up his presentation by discussing the need for an innovation hub in the Tampa region. For Kornfeld, it was a career-changing moment.