Million Dollar Monday

From Problems to Prosperity with Marc Blumenthal

March 01, 2021 Greg Muzzillo
Million Dollar Monday
From Problems to Prosperity with Marc Blumenthal
Chapters
1:18
All about Marc
2:21
Lessons from the Jewelry Store
6:04
Success Mindset
10:27
Progressive Business Solutions
16:49
Journey to Florida Funders
23:35
The Cuban Sandwhich
31:34
Synapse Event
36:55
Final Advice
Million Dollar Monday
From Problems to Prosperity with Marc Blumenthal
Mar 01, 2021
Greg Muzzillo

Marc Blumenthal is a serial entrepreneur who is committed to helping other entrepreneurs accelerate success through meaningful connections, investments and opportunities. As Chairman of Synapse Florida and Founding Member of Florida Funders, Blumenthal discusses with Host Greg Muzzillo how finding problems fuels the creation of business and wealth. 

Chapter Summaries

  • 01:18 - All About Marc
  • 02:21 - Lessons from the Jewelry Store
  • 06:04 - Success Mindset
  • 10:27 - Progressive Business Solutions
  • 16:49 - Journey to Florida Funders
  • 23:35 - The Cuban Sandwhich
  • 31:34 - Synapse Event
  • 36:55 - Final Advice

Resource Links

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Marc Blumenthal is a serial entrepreneur who is committed to helping other entrepreneurs accelerate success through meaningful connections, investments and opportunities. As Chairman of Synapse Florida and Founding Member of Florida Funders, Blumenthal discusses with Host Greg Muzzillo how finding problems fuels the creation of business and wealth. 

Chapter Summaries

  • 01:18 - All About Marc
  • 02:21 - Lessons from the Jewelry Store
  • 06:04 - Success Mindset
  • 10:27 - Progressive Business Solutions
  • 16:49 - Journey to Florida Funders
  • 23:35 - The Cuban Sandwhich
  • 31:34 - Synapse Event
  • 36:55 - Final Advice

Resource Links

Click here to subscribe and receive updates when new episodes are available

Marc Blumenthal:

At Florida Funders, we look at about 150 companies a month to invest in about 20 a year. You know, one thing that oftentimes I see missing from these companies is proof of a problem, as opposed to kind of the playbook of just sort of building a business plan or trying to find a problem, I think, to experience the problem and almost be to the point where you're like, I can't let that one lie usually creates the fuel and the early customers ...

Greg Muzzillo:

Hello and welcome to Million Dollar Monday. I'm your host, Greg Muzzillo bringing you real successful people with real useful advice for people with big dreams. I understand big dreams. I turned an investment of $200 and a lot of great advice from some really successful people into my big dream Proforma that today is a half billion dollar company.

:

All right, everybody, I am excited to introduce my special guest for today. Not just an entrepreneur, but an entrepreneur's entrepreneur. Yes. He has experienced starting businesses. Yes. He has experience managing businesses. Yes. He has experience selling those businesses, but he's also an entrepreneur's entrepreneur being a general partner in an organization called Florida Funders. It's really the best of the combination of venture capital and angel investors with over 1500 angel investors now. And he's going to tell us a lot more about that and also the founder of Synapse and not for profit innovation hub that connects entrepreneurs, investors, and other stakeholders to really accelerate the success of everything that's happening in our economies down here in Florida. I'm excited to introduce guest Marc Blumenthal.

Greg Muzzillo:

Marc. Thanks for joining me. Great to be here. Thanks for doing this. Yeah, for sure. All right . Uh, the purpose of Million Dollar Monday is to share inspiration, great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and all people with big dreams. And I always like to start at the beginning, the beginning of your story, tell us about, you know, where did you grow up and what was the situation in growing up? Where, where did you find your work ethic? And , and at what point did you think maybe you wanted to create wealth and own your own business? So , I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, down at the Jersey Shore called Toms River. Um, great

Marc Blumenthal:

Place to grow up , uh, County had about a hundred thousand people in it, which seemed like a lot of people to me back then. And I was fortunate to grow up in a great family. Um, the year before I was born, my father , Mel Blumenthal started a jewelry store named it after my mother Corrine, and I got to grow up, going to the jewelry store. Um, so from the time I could reach the counter, I was doing anything from cleaning the glass on the counter to polishing jewelry, to engraving, to doing inventory. Um, and that was just a lot of fun. My older brother was in the business eight years older, Craig , um, and I just got to watch , 2,500 or 3000 square feet of commerce and entrepreneurship in action . I didn't know what I was observing to be perfectly fair. I observed great work ethic. I observed taking care of customers and just being a part of a community from the time I was 12 or 13, I actually did jobs and made money and I never really understood it. I don't frankly think I even understood what the word entrepreneur was back then and just enjoyed work and relationships way more than I enjoyed school to be perfectly Frank. I just, I just did.

Greg Muzzillo:

That's a common theme among a lot of entrepreneurs .

Marc Blumenthal:

Yeah . And, then the other thing that like, as I look back , um, it wasn't as though I had any particular training. Um, I had this unconditional love of my family and I just was always comfortable trying new things. I always knew somehow some way, whatever happened if I made it home alive, I'd I'd have a room and a roof over my head. Right. And that's all I needed to know is that I had someplace to go where I sort of always be loved.

Greg Muzzillo:

Can you remember a point at which you realized you wanted to create more wealth than what you, what you had in your family growing up?

Marc Blumenthal:

You know, it's interesting. I always enjoyed part of the reason I work so much is I did enjoy making money. I always had cash in my pocket, so there was always, you know, I could always do something on the weekends . Um, I don't think I thought about real wealth. I really wasn't exposed to, like, I didn't have a neighbor who was worth tens of millions or hundreds of millions, at least that I knew at the time. Um, so it wasn't until I went off to college that I started to get exposed to things that were very different than what I got exposed to in, in New Jersey. Um, I came down here to the University of South Florida and that's sort of when new experiences combined with kind of old experiences sort of set the bar for what I wanted to accomplish.

Greg Muzzillo:

Another, thing I like to talk about is, was there a point at which in your life, well, before none of us knew what entrepreneur was, right? None of us could spell it and none of us had programs studying it, but can you remember a point at which you knew you were going to be successful, very successful? You just didn't even know maybe what it was going to be, but you knew for sure you'd be successful.

Marc Blumenthal:

I don't think I ever doubted my ability to go out and sort of earn a living and be successful and provide that was not my objective, but my sort of my fallback was all right, I'll make a good living. Um, you know, it's interesting. So when I was in college, I think it was my sophomore year at the University of South Florida. I was in a business school and I was involved in these computer classes and, you know, sometimes for entrepreneurs, timing is everything. You know, I don't know what would have happened if I was 10 years older or 10 years younger. But when I was in college, IBM had just recently invented the PC and , um, and the hard drive. So that was a big deal, you know, 10 Mega hard drive. And I got tapped by one of my professors to interview for a job at IBM. And they said, Marc, this is a perfect position. They call them co-op positions back then. And , um, I went and interviewed and I got the job and it was it. And I started to work full-time and go to college. And it was like a kid in the candy store. You know, I think I made $11 an hour. It wasn't a tremendous amount of money, but I knew more about the IBM PC than anyone in the branch. In IBM's infinite wisdom, they didn't know what they had, so they didn't pay any of their sales reps commission or give them quota credit. So guess what? The sales reps never paid any attention to the PCs , but guess what their customers wanted PCs . And so they always sent me and they're like, Marc, you know, the CIO of Nielsen , or it was called AC Nielsen back then, once I talked to somebody about PC go, USF needs the Polk County Sheriff's office needs it Jim Walter Corp needs it, Celotex needs it. And I'm 19, maybe just turned 20 and I've got a suit on one suit that I owned and I'm running around listening to what the CIO's want to do with these computers. And coming back to the branch and going to my marketing manager and saying, when they call the marketing managers back then I have no idea why it was sales. Um, and I said like, okay, so Gary wants to do this. And Ken wants to do that. And what I consistently heard was we don't do that. We don't do that. And something clicked inside me. I'm like, that's stupid. I'm really not impressed with you as an organization. You're supposed to take care of your customers. And then I don't know how many weeks or months it was into my, my stay at IBM when I went back to my , uh, to my friends and in college , another fantastic entrepreneur in town , Lance Raab, who was in the cobol help lab back then, at the business school. And I'm like, Hey, can we do this? You know, I didn't have really deep technical skills. And he's like, yeah, we can do this. I said, well, you build it, I'll sell it. And we'll split it. And there in my sophomore, early junior year with the birth of a company. And, you know, sort of, that was when I knew that I was never going to go to work for someone in large part, because I didn't really fit in at IBM, nor was I it's still the 80 20 rule. Like there were some, I have friends still that worked with me that back then at IBM that are like unbelievable. But it was, there was a lot of people who just were kind of getting the job, you know, they were. And so I knew at that point that I wasn't going to ever work for a company. I never, I don't have a resume. I never applied for a job. I technically never worked for anybody since then, except for companies that acquired my company, they largely wanted to get me out pretty quickly.

Greg Muzzillo:

Well did they want to get you out? Or did you want to get out? Which? Both .

Marc Blumenthal:

I told the business , I'm like, Hey, I'm going to hang out long enough to make you feel good. And then

Greg Muzzillo:

Right, right.I'm on to my next thing. Listen, we both know we're unemployable Marc. So get me to your first real business, is that what you, this business you started in college.

Marc Blumenthal:

Interesting. Yeah. And then Lance and I went our separate ways in a friendly way, even before I graduated. Um, and he went on to start a business and did very, very well. Um, it was interesting. Two things happened. One, I had this sort of consulting training, application development business that were the IBM customers, frankly. Um, and then another thing happened that was really interesting. So while I was working at IBM, they said, Hey, we want to get the University of South Florida to sign on, to sell our computers on campus, to faculty, staff and students. I'm like, great. So we had this program and we went and we pitched it first to the , to the CIO who was running mainframe computers. And he goes, this is a great idea, but I'm sorry I don't want a computer store. And then they kept pitching it and they kept getting no . And back then, what IBM would do when they got to know is they would just bring in the next level of executives to pitch the same thing. And I'm thinking to myself, I think I might've been 20, almost 21 at that point I'm going , this just doesn't make sense to me. They want what, what IBM has to offer. They just don't want to run it. They don't want to have a computer store. Okay. So out of that comes this idea. I'm like, you know, we should hire a third party to go out and manage the computer store on behalf of the university system. And within six months I had, I had no idea what I was doing. I went to my college law business law professor and wrote up a contract and I incorporated, and then I somehow got a contract, a three way contract. Four way actually it was my company, which was called Progressive Business Solutions. It was IBM. It was a University of South Florida. And I actually had to have the board of regions at the state level sign off on this. And I opened a computer store in the bookstore. So I rented space. And then they got to buy the equipment and I sold it and I made a profit on it. And we kind of shared the profit. If memory serves me, I don't remember what it was, but those computers back then were three, $4,000. Um, within my first few months I had $600,000 in the bank. I was still going to college. Um, and so that operation, which lasted from 1985, early 86 through the early nineties. And then I gave it back to the university because it was just frankly boring. And you saw the same thing over and over again. Um, but that funded everything that I built. So from 1985, through 2000, I turned Progressive into a regional, predominantly Tampa Bay. And in a little bit of this South Florida and some, some up in Atlanta , um, back then it was known as a systems integration company today would be like a managed service provider. Um, but we had 120 people and few different offices. And we were doing 20 million or so in revenue. And we did networks , uh, financial accounting, software , customer relationship management software, and a whole lot of other things for thousands of customers. And that was my first business. And then in 2000, 1999, I kind of went away on something that I would endorse every entrepreneur to do. I saw a speaker , a tech group, which was called, Vistage was called tech back then it's Vistage today kind of like YPO and other things. And , um, this speaker , said, you know, entrepreneurs never take care of themselves. They never really think, you know, they're too busy, like on the freight train to think about what to create the life that they want. And , so he had this whole methodology to create an entrepreneurial retreat and, and he created this framework. He said, you've got to go away alone. You got to go to a place that you find beautiful. So beach, mountain, whatever it is, kill the cell phone and spend some time and journal and journal as if you were going to die in five years, what would you be doing every day? And then he said, now I want you to take that same journal. I want you to stack it against the two year , uh, imaginary death and then a six month imaginary death . And , uh, when I got done with that retreat, I'd gone up to Apalachicola alone, drove, drove up to Apalachicola. Um, in 1999 in the fall, it was cold. And I realized that everything that I wrote in that book had nothing to do with my company. And so I decided at that moment that I was going to sell the company, didn't know how, but kind of as the universe conspires, when you decide within two months I had three offers. I accepted one offer in February of 2000. We closed in early March of 2000, which was crazy fast. They were about to file a public offering, an S-1 was an Austin ventures backed company out of Texas. And they were consolidating companies like mine around the country. And I sold it from LOI to close in three weeks. Um, and did , did pretty well, you know, well enough, I was 37 and like, okay, I got some money. Um, and then, then I, then I entered perhaps the one, the first time that I was ever confused because now I didn't know what I wanted to do. But I've talked to a lot of my friends who are entrepreneurs and when they sell a business, like you ring, the bell, got all this money in the bank, and then you have this anti-climactic kind of, well , after you do some fun stuff, you're like, well, this isn't that fun. Like I'm not building something. Um, so I was 37 and, you know , figured out, and then luckily within a year or two, I figured out what I was going to do next.

Greg Muzzillo:

All right . So then was there anything after that or did that get you to Florida Funders and then Synapse?

Marc Blumenthal:

Yeah, so that largely I had done a couple of things in between some ventures. They all ended up working out. Um, and then I believe it or not I had kind of built , with a group of people , nine locations of ideal image , laser hair removal. Another lot of hard lessons learned , um, all your skills don't necessarily always convey and billboard advertising and radio advertising and , retail , was not my thing, but I mean, it worked, it ultimately worked and Ideal Image ended up selling the company, to corporate for $177 million of which we were a part of it. But , um, there was, I've done a lot of different things. And I guess in that journey, I learned what I love and what I don't. And by the time I sold Intelladon and was sort of wrapping up at Tribridge I was 50 or so, I'm 56 now. I knew that I didn't want to necessarily go run a company again, to be an operator per se. I owed my beautiful wife Karen , more of my time. She actually wanted more of my time. Um, so, and my kids were grown , largely , I think one was still left in college at that time. And I'm like, you know, I know there is no, there's no easy way to build a company. I mean, if you're going to go be the CEO, you're in it, you're immersed in it. You get on that freight train and you don't get off. And so I was unwilling to do that again, it didn't, I didn't need the money and I didn't need the ego, but I love entrepreneurship. And I was already a reasonably active angel investor. I loved helping other entrepreneurs. I enjoyed I always kind of figured if I could kind of sit down with somebody and have them make one less mistake, one that I already made, then I was like, that was a great gift. Right. And, and I enjoyed learning about their business and their stories . So kind of one thing led to another. And I ran into Dave Chittister. I think it was at the Tampa Bay Wave one day, I was just sort of, you know, running around and he told me about what he was doing, and this was 2014, late 2014. And I'm like, ah , that's intriguing, Dave, thanks very much. And six months later and a number of conversations, Tom Wallace. And I, who has also been a friend who was an early competitor, but a friendly one also was on Tribridge is , one of his, their first investor actually said, you know, Hey, if you do Florida Funders, I'll do Florida Funders, you know, kind of a thing. And that was April of 2015. And , um, we fell in love with that as a method to make a difference. So we, the only reason we did it was we, we obviously wanted a return on our investment. I mean, you kind of have to good business needs, good investment, but we weren't going to be in the venture business if we weren't making a difference, like in a meaningful way for Florida. Because back then , you didn't hear about people coming to Florida to start a business. You heard about young people, smart people leaving to go to Austin, Boulder, New York, you know , and obviously San Francisco and the Valley to get money and to get talent. And Tom and I were like appalled by that. And since probably the beginning, like early 2000, we were involved in the Tampa Bay Technology Forum and all these different organizations trying to kind of coalesce the tech community here. And we did that, but we were dumbfounded and a little bit angry that people had this perception that you had to leave in order to get capital or to get talent. And we said, well, we'll make a difference. And the tagline of Florida funders was from sunshine state to start up state. Um, and that was kind of what we did. We had a double bottom line look up every day , going, we're gonna make investments of our time and money and to get a good return, but we're going to help these entrepreneurs stay here, grow here. We're going to teach them whatever we can and we're going to make a difference. And that was the birth of Florida Funders. And by 2016 , um, all of our friends were coming on board, going, we love this idea, how much money do you want? What can I do? And people came out of the woodwork with this idea. Like I had one well-known guy in town, sit with me at the bar at ocean prime and go, thank you. You guys are doing God's work now. I'm not doing God's work. But he said that in a way like, Hey, I know how hard it is, you know? So I know Tim Marks and a whole lot of Metropolitan Ministries, they do God's work, but, but, but the, the, it resonated with me because what this gentleman Joe was saying to me, he's like, this is really hard. Like, you guys are going to spend an inordinate amount of time investing saying yes, saying no coaching sitting on boards. A lot of these deals aren't going to work out, but you know, if we don't do this collectively, then we're never going to have a thriving ecosystem. And to be fair, if we don't have a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurs, we don't have a thriving economy and we don't have a thriving community . So that was what he was saying.And that's what completely drives me every day. Yeah.

Greg Muzzillo:

And I'd have to say, I think I disagree with you. I think you were doing God's work because Metropolitan Ministries couldn't be doing what it's doing without people with money here and around the time , uh, you know, the early teens of , uh, 20, I don't really remember exactly. But about 10 years ago, we, we investigated five cities, myself and my wife, and , a couple of other family members and tried to choose what town did we want to move to Jacksonville, Tampa, Atlanta. I'm trying to remember what the other choices were and it doesn't matter. And we chose Tampa and , it's been nothing but great for us. We've had zero problem attracting great talent right here. And so it's a thriving community. And now we, and I know a whole lot of other great organizations here that are entrepreneurial are supporting places like Metropolitan Ministries. And so I do think you were doing God's work by being able to have successful businesses, thrive here and support the wonderful , organizations like Metropolitan Ministries. Okay. So you get, you got the Florida Funders thing going 1500 angel investors get me to Synapse. Where does that idea come from? So

Marc Blumenthal:

In 2016, when we raised a little capital for the company, got a bunch of people involved that , you know, and it's the summer of 2016. And , I basically, Tom Wallace was still the CEO of Vector learning or Vector Solutions it's called today. And , um, so I set up an office, I hired some people, we started building that technology and turning the company, which was this kind of idea with some people investing on a website, so a real company with a strategy and a team, the thing that, so there were two things that Florida Funders needed to find. We needed to find founders with deals that we could back. Um, and you look at basically 100 to find one or two, and then we need to find investors, right. So I spent all day, every day sort of organizing around those principles. And so in the summer of 2016 in the fall of 2016 , essentially saying to myself, this doesn't make any sense. Like there are all these accelerators and incubators in universities, and then there are things going on, like SOCOM soft works and a phenomenal guy by the name of Hondo Geurts who used to run procurement at SOCOM. So there were all these disjointed efforts, USF engineering, US business college and the Tampa Bay Wave and the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. And that's just here. So all around the state, like there were dozens and dozens of dozens of initiatives, and no one knew what the other person was doing, zero coordination. And I'm saying to myself, this is exhausting. Like people are running pitch events on the same night, just across the Bay. It just looked like , um, random chaos and not the good kind of chaos , in my opinion, but I didn't know what an ecosystem should look like. I just knew that this one was inefficient. And I was saying to myself, how can I get my high net worth investors to pay attention? This is just exhausting to travel all these places. And so I had this sort of, I had a problem statement. This is like, all I knew is that this is inefficient. And then in November of 2016, Rebecca White at the University of Tampa and the Kauffman Foundation had done a study. And that study was the efficacy or the health of the greater Tampa Bay area. I think it was six or seven counties of their entrepreneurial ecosystem. And that report got published at a meeting late November in the entrepreneurialship center at UT I'm listening to that report and I'm looking at it and, you know, kind of the end summary was, you know, the Kauffman foundation PhD saying, you guys have like 45 entrepreneurial support organizations and you have kind of all the raw materials, but you're getting like a C grade, but all you need to do is like connect and communicate and organize. They didn't really prescribe the solution, but it was sort of like my old report cards at school Marc is not working up to his potential. And , you know, it's sort of like Kauffman foundation said this area is not living up to its potential. I'm like, aha, okay. So somebody smarter than I am is validated my own anecdotal observations. And then we got a group together in December and we sat down like, what are we going to do about this? And like, who's going to do it. And in the end, no one wanted to do it. No one could do it. Like you, you had to be in order to organize the ecosystem in order to be sort of the organizing principle, you couldn't be one of the constituents. Like you couldn't be a university, you couldn't be an accelerator. You couldn't be a venture capital firm. So it was really , me, Andy Hafer, Brian Kornfeld , Hondo Geurts, and general Dave Scott, retired general, Dave Scott, who owns now the bad monkey bar in ybor city, g reat bar. And we met in Ybor city and w e're like, well, what are we g oing t o do about this? Like, we didn't have an idea called s ynapse. At that time, we just started to lay the framework and we knew something needed to be done. And we looked around, no one was willing to do it. U m, and so out of that came this idea that we would create an organization whose sole mission was to organize these various constituencies or personas across geographies, industries and technologies. We then saw a report that was actually Jeff V inik, who who's become a friend and a supporter and a co-investor in so many ways, sent me a fax or a scan. It was all marked up cause Jeff is a copious reader and note taker, and it was a report from EY, which we all kind of remember as Ernst and Young.It was called , the power of five. And it was a story of all places, the Cincinnati entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem and how a nonprofit organization had organized the principles and P&G and the University of Cincinnati and the city got together and kind of really made it so that since he was not a fly over for venture capital and in like the course of six or seven years, I think they attracted like $500 million of venture capital. And they today are a CPG technologies powerhouse, as you would imagine them to be, because I think Kroger, GE is there with like medical, I think , obviously P&G and I forget a big grocery store chain as well, I think you're right. Yeah. Um, so they organized around that and I'm going aha you know, a non-profit B no skin in the game, no dog in the fight. Right. C, how do you organize these different constituencies and give them an engagement mechanism and a role and meet their needs because, you know, investors are different than entrepreneurs are different than entrepreneurs support organizations or government, or all of the other constituencies that come into play. And so that was the birth of what was first named Cuban sandwich project by Dave Scott. It was code name . Um, and then it turned into Synaps when Wes Lehman , a marketing guy who'd been working on the project said, Hey, it's kinda like, you know how, the brain you've got this sort of biological electrical connection that just happens instantly and you create these synapses and they happen, they fire, that's kind of what we're doing. And I'm like, Oh my God. Yeah. We're Synapse.

Greg Muzzillo:

Better than the Cuban sandwich name.

Marc Blumenthal:

Was a good metaphor though, because all the ingredients come together and make a tasty tasty sandwich. And then , um, we decided after we kind of wrote up what we were going to be to do an event and Jeff Vinik was kind enough to effectively give us the Amalie arena on our first year, we just had to pay for security and some water and food. And we promoted it and we got sponsors and we organized a board and 3,300 people, two days later, we had put off our, pulled off our first synapse summit. And that was 2018. And it's just built like last year , um, right before COVID like days or weeks before covid. Yeah. We had nearly 7,500 people for two days and it was Epic. And Sarah Blakely was one of our keynotes and wow,

Greg Muzzillo:

For those that don't know Spanx Founder.

Marc Blumenthal:

Great, great story.

Greg Muzzillo:

The dates are March the eighth through the 12th four jam-packed days of education. And fortunately it is virtual. So everybody listening can join in for part of the experience. Some of the experience, tell us the highlights, who are some of the big speakers and what are some of the best learnings available.

Marc Blumenthal:

It's really fascinating. So there are definitely some fantastic speakers. I mean, everybody's excited about Daymond John, the CEO of cameo, which is a really fantastic new site that you can have people who are stars, sports stars, or television stars or personality sort do a cameo appearance for you , your product, or for your personal reasons. We'll have venture capital people , you know, they'll literally be hundreds of breakouts and it will be recorded. So for those people who register and pay for a ticket, they'll be able to continue to use it to your benefit and you'll be able to continue to connect. So the keynotes are great, right? Like the mayor of Miami will be there online and venture new people coming into Miami and the South Florida area, which has sort of been a little bit of a highway from New York and San Francisco slightly

Greg Muzzillo:

Out of control out of control.

Marc Blumenthal:

We'll also have , um, you know, Jane Castor and other people talking about all the other things that are going on, but, but the magic that happens. So everybody loves seeing a good keynote, right. But the magic that always happened in the building and the reason we kept pulling, putting the bigger events together that continued to last long is there are these connections that have nothing to do. And I continue to hear stories like you know, people met, their partner, they met their source of capital. There is a, you know, a great service provider that now has a customer. I hear those stories all the time. And I hear lots of stories about people who were, they used Synapse, like they got invited by a brother or cousin or whatever, as a way to experiment, kind of see what happens on the ground in Tampa or in Florida. And they choose to move after that. So it is, it's always about the speakers. It's always about the panels and the breakouts, but really it's about the connections. And we've got this really cool AI engine that tries to use machine learning to figure out how to match people as potential connections. You know, it's, I think to a certain extent it's harder. And to a certain extent it's easier walking around the Amelie arena with 7,000 or more people in the arena is overwhelming for a lot of people, you know, 400 exhibitors. So, you know, you, you have to work at those collisions sometimes, and sometimes they just happen. What people will have is sort of almost the ability to use it like LinkedIn, but not as overwhelming LinkedIn, right? All these people are attending all these people coalesce around the idea of innovation, entrepreneurship capital . So if Silicon Valley bank is attending, which they are , um, you know, they're going to take a reach out from someone who wants to inquire about venture debt as an example. So I think the efficacy will last even longer than the physical event this year,

Greg Muzzillo:

I participated recently in a virtual event and actually the networking event seem more powerful and easier to do than actually live . You could see who was in different clusters. You could see who they were to your point about LinkedIn. You could see, Oh, that's so-and-so and that's so-and-so I think I want to go over and hang out with that circle. It was really , it was actually more powerful than just standing in a mob of people and not knowing who they are, who you want to talk to. I'm sure it will be very powerful. And of course, we're going to be posting the information so that all of our listeners can learn more because no matter where they are , uh, there's a lot to learn. If you're an entrepreneur aspiring entrepreneur, or wondering if you want to relocate to Florida or just get great lessons in entrepreneurship, financing, running a business. Synapse is going to be a great event for you. You're lucky that you can participate in it virtually. So one of the things I like to close with is tell us a couple of great pieces of advice for entrepreneurs and people with big dreams. You've got a great story. You've built companies, you sold companies. Now you're entrepreneur's entrepreneur with Florida Funders and Synapse. Give our listeners a final couple of great pieces of advice that you would share.

Marc Blumenthal:

Sure . You know, at Florida Funders, we look at about 150 companies a month to invest in about 20 a year. I would say that, you know, one thing that oftentimes I see missing from these companies is proof of a problem. Uh, and so, you know, if you go back to my story, probably each time , that I launched the business, or in this case, a nonprofit with Synapse or Florida Funders, it was a problem. It was like something that I could not go to sleep at night knowing, cause I could fix it. I could do something differently. I think ultimately , some of the best businesses have that same experience and usually the best founders they come out of an industry or they observed something that they're just like, this is, you know, excuse the expression. This is stupid. That it's this way I could do it so much better. Right. And as opposed to kind of the playbook of just sort of building a business plan or trying to find a problem, I think to experience the problem and , and almost be to the point where you're like, I can't let that one lie , um, usually creates the fuel and the early customers. So one piece is find a problem that you just have to solve and hopefully it's big so that your total addressable market is really big. Um, secondly, get customers like some of the folks that we meet are awesome, brilliant, smart, but they build a product, kind of create this MVP middle product or beyond, but they don't have any early adopters. They don't have any pilots or proof of concept. And , and there's rarely a time with most software products or most technologies where you can't go find someone to validate that what you think the problem is, is really the problem. And to be your first pilot test, whatever, to meet , do those two things. And there's a hundred others, but those are the two things. It's hard to not be successful. You may, you may aim to create a unicorn and only create a $10 million a year business, but you won't miss completely. Right? Yeah. That's, that's sort of my take.

Greg Muzzillo:

I love it. I love it. Find a problem and solve it. You become very wealthy finding problems and solving them and making sure there's customers that want to buy the solution for those problems. Those are great pieces of advice, Marc. I really appreciate your time. I thank you very much for sharing your generous and great story, and I wish you great success with the upcoming Synapse event this week. Thanks again, Marc. Thanks so much. Have an awesome day.

All about Marc
Lessons from the Jewelry Store
Success Mindset
Progressive Business Solutions
Journey to Florida Funders
The Cuban Sandwhich
Synapse Event
Final Advice