Rust Belt Rising … A Quest To Create A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.
– By Blake Glenn
A few days ago IgniteTech partnered with a tech incubator called The Hamilton Mill to produce a new storytelling event called “From The Shop Floor”. Formerly called BizTech Center, this incubator is nestled in the riverfront downtown area of Hamilton, OH, a small industrial town located in SW Ohio between Cincinnati and Dayton (but closer to Cincinnati).
The city has a population of roughly 60,000. And like many other rust belt towns, Hamilton is in the midst of trying to extricate itself from its rust belt lineage and reimagining into something new. And this general effort in the city parallels the rebranding effort of The Hamilton Mill incubator. The incubator has existed since the early 2000’s. But, like many other tech incubators around the country, over time it became more of a condo for small businesses that grew comfortable in the space and showed limited growth prospects. Ideally an incubator company with fast-growth ambitions will maintain a presence for a few short years … then move on to bigger digs as they get funding, hire talent, and move past the early stage of tech startup-hood.
Now The Hamilton Mill is re-positioning itself as a real destination for venture founders that are launching fast-growth tech startups. The managers really seem to want to build a dynamic incubator that helps to launch and grow real growth oriented tech ventures. In doing so, they’ve shown mucho interest in partnering with other groups to build a more dynamic regional tech startup scene.
Now this brings me back to IgniteTech’s nascent alliance with The Hamilton Mill. This idea first came up several months ago after a discussion with Antony, the operations manager at the incubator. He became a member of IgniteTech and expressed interest in some sort of collaboration. So it just made sense that we’d merge an IgniteTech Happy Hour event with a storytelling event focused on a Hamilton Mill company. After all, IgniteTech has previously produced a few storytelling events of our own.
This initial event featured Paul Kling, co-founder of a statup called kw River. The company, launched in 2013, hopes to produce a hydro-electric device that creates water-based clean energy. His story was interesting and the Q&A session showed that the attendees were quite engaged.
I’d say our initial collaboration went pretty well. The story was good. I witnessed several new connections being made among attendees. There was free food from a local caterer … and wine and beer too.
The only problem was that I arrived a little too early. Antony and I got to work carrying food. Moving around furniture. And hauling big cooler-loads of ice, wine and beer up several stairs. I sweated a bit. But I’ll not complain. Hell, it was good exercise. Besides after all, in order to build a real tech startup community, somebody’s got to roll up their damned sleeves and do some of the dirty work!
Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).
If you dare, he can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com