ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini is crisscrossing the world, seeking to make potential investments in startups and/or tech businesses that can further strengthen the ConnectWise ecosystem. But sometimes, potential investment targets and strategic alliances pop up right in your own back yard.
With that possibility and more in mind, ConnectWise will participate in Synapse Innovation Summit 2018, which kicks off March 28 in Tampa, Fla. -- quite literally Bellini's hometown.
Synapse Innovation Summit is designed to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, corporations and community leaders -- putting a strong spotlight on the "thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida," conference organizers say.
In addition to Bellini, confirmed speakers include IBM Chief Innovation Officer Bernard Meyerson; investor and developer Jeff Vinik; Henry Ford Health System Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Mark Coticchia; and Water Street Tampa’s Innovation Hub CEO Lakshmi Shenoy.
Bellini will surface on stage sometime Wednesday morning. He'll describe how ConnectWise has emerged as "Tampa Bay’s first true unicorn" -- leveraging local-based talent and resources. Although ConnectWise is privately held and self-funded, the company's current valuation is roughly $1.2 billion, Bellini tells ChannelE2E.
Tampa and Florida: Silicon Valley Southeast?
Of course, multiple regions across the U.S. claim to offer all the benefits of Silicon Valley (talent, innovators, funding pipelines, etc.) without the headaches -- particularly the high cost of living.
Synapse Innovation Summit will attempt to put that type of spotlight on Tampa and the broader Florida region. Last year the event drew a little more than 600 people. This year, organizers expect 2,000-plus entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, college students, military veterans, government officials, business executives and more to attend, according to Tampa Bay Times.
"If you want to build a company. If you want to invest for growth. Everything is right here in Tampa and across Florida," Bellini asserts. "ConnectWise is proof of that."
To reinforce that point, ConnectWise had been brainstorming some local initiatives on its own. But Synapse Innovation Summit emerged as a great way to press forward as part of a larger, statewide initiative, Bellini says. "It's always been part of our vision to build an even denser, more prolific ecosystem right here in Tampa, Florida," he says. "The event puts a magnifying glass on the region, the talent and the support network that's right here."
In addition to tech companies and investment firms, Bellini points to local colleges that attract students from a cross the country. Many of those students, he adds, stick around and permanently relocate to Florida -- where jobs, low cost of living and world-class amenities are bountiful.
ConnectWise Hackathons, Investments
ConnectWise also sees Synapse Innovation Summit as an opportunity to give back to the local community while potentially bolstering the company's own ecosystem.
With those dual goals in mind, ConnectWise provided $25,000 in scholarship money (and Synapse Florida matched that to bring the total to $50,000) -- which allows up to 1,000 local college students to attend the event for free. Also, ConnectWise is participating in the Hackathon Challenge – essentially empowering potential ecosystem members to write applications for ConnectWise Manage, Automate, and other pieces of the company's software suite.
During IT Nation 2017 in November, Bellini said ConnectWise was preparing to invest $10 million or more in ecosystem startups. We'll be watching to see if any startups at Synapse Innovation Summit capture ConnectWise's attention, imagination -- and investment dollars from the Tampa company.