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Innovation Comes Alive at Tampa’s Synapse Summit 2024

Collage of photos from the Synapse 2024 event

BNO gleans insights and inspiration from a community of diverse, disruptive entrepreneurs

Innovation Lives Here.


Those three words resounded vibrantly throughout Tampa’s Synapse Summit 2024, a live event that brought over 3,500 attendees together for a day of technology, innovation, and connection. From Synapse CEO Lauren Prager’s opening remarks inviting us to “connect, work together, engage, and share ideas” to Mayor of Tampa Jane Castor’s rallying cry: by growing “thoughtfully, intentionally and inclusively, we can all create the future that we want to see,” Synapse Summit 2024 spoke directly to BNO’s ongoing commitment to innovation. It also brought our St. Petersburg, FL, team closer to the flourishing tech and entrepreneurial communities across Florida. Read on for key takeaways and innovation insights from Synapse Summit 2024!

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Innovating a centuries-old industry

Shirl Penney, CEO of Dynasty Financial Partners in St. Petersburg, gave a keynote that was equal parts motivating and warm. In “Building to $100 Billion: Leading through Innovation and Resilience,” he covered a range of topics, from how his organization is disrupting the centuries-old wealth management industry to advice for entrepreneurs and the importance of community.

Penney shared his humble upbringing as an orphan in an impoverished seaside town in Maine and his journey to become the founder of Dynasty Financial Partners. In 2019, he moved his organization, which is on track to reach its goal of $100 billion in assets by July 2024, from New York City to St. Pete, due in large part to the city’s community spirit and Penney’s feeling of getting “a community bear hug” every time he, his family, and his team visited. Highlights from his memorable keynote include:

  • Cultivate core strengths: Penney has built a career based on belief in self, a willingness to take calculated risks, and the courage to chase his dreams. With these three core traits, he encouraged young people in the audience to concentrate “on what you learn, not what you earn, in your first job.” He also advised doing “the things that nobody else wants to do: stay late, do a PPT, do an Excel sheet” to make yourself indispensable.
  • Maintain entrepreneurial focus: When asked to share advice for entrepreneurs, Penney counseled the audience to first build an economic model. Unlike a business plan, an economic model looks at revenue over time. “Know your numbers,” said Penney. “Understand operations and be incredibly proximate with your clients.” Second, hire a chief of staff. Over the course of his career, Penney has had eight individuals serve in this role. They provide “tremendous leverage to free up your time and focus on other areas of the business.”
  • Put community first: Citing the proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Penney shared that he is “blessed with a tremendous team.” Since relocating to the Tampa Bay area, he has tripled the size of his home office staff. “We have open reqs (requisitions) and need more talent,” said Penney, and are “so excited to be part of this community.”
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Innovating the customer experience

An energetic panel shared their thoughts during “Five-Star Customer Experiences: Lessons From Hospitality Leaders.” The discussion included highlights of how they use technology to drive great customer experiences in order to:

  • Minimize wait times and streamline operational efficiencies for front and back of house
  • Train staff and help them focus on guest experiences versus tedious tasks, allowing them to build relationships with customers, aka “the magic of the transaction” between guests and staff
  • Aggregate data, uncover innovative insights, and use customer feedback to make decisions
  • Address staff shortages and bandwidth, which most restaurants faced post-pandemic
  • Fuel brand loyalty and create memorable, layered experiences that keep guests coming back
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Innovating financial services

In “Fintech Solutions for All,” two entrepreneurs discussed their visions for reimaging the banking industry. Kredit Academy uses technology to teach financial literacy, while Allison provides a low-code software solution for banks and fintechs. Both companies are embracing AI. Here’s how:

  • Kredit Academy employs AI-based learning to understand where people are in their journey to credit mastery. The software provides over 250 hours of learning and can tailor individual lessons. “At the end of the day,” said Founder Evan Leaphart, “you are the driver. The better you know how to ask prompts, the better results you’ll get. The more in-depth you go, the more it gives back.”
  • Allison uses AI for threat intelligence. “We take patterns that have been embedded inside of banking and fraud prevention to detect the next level of threat,” said CEO Brian Alvarez-Bailey. “We don’t know where the threat is going to come from, but we do know the channels that it could come through. We test and simulate potential threats … giving bankers and regulators the tools to act.”
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Innovating growth across Florida

During “Why Florida? Unlocking Innovation and Growth in the Sunshine State,” panelists explored the progress that results from industry leaders across Florida working together.

  • Throughout South Florida, industry leaders in fintech, sports tech, and agtech are collaborating to have a greater local, regional, and national impact.
  • Entrepreneurship and building ecosystems are team sports. Across Florida, tech leaders are becoming teammates, with the shared objective of developing a stronger ecosystem
  • Synapse serves as an ecosystem connector, bringing partners together to co-create solutions.

Rounding out the event were over 100 exhibitors across software, healthcare, higher education, financial services, retail, as well as tech incubators, business accelerators, nonprofits, and more. At BNO, we’re proud to bring our award-winning creative services to organizations like those at Synapse Summit 2024. Our recent Tampa Bay ADDY Award 2024 wins for GlobalLogic and Thorn, both innovators in the tech space, highlight our deep understanding of employer branding, while our work for Mastercard and New York Life speaks to our marketing expertise in fintech. We delight in helping our partners communicate with energy and authenticity, and welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can help you innovate your brand. Drop us a line at to start the conversation!