Rust Belt Rising … An Epic Quest To Build A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.
— by Blake Glenn
It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted a Rustbelt Rising entry. I’ve not posted a Rustbelt Rising piece since August of 2014. That’s true for a few reasons.
First, I’ve been exceptionally busy with developing a couple of ideas (well, one in particular) I’ve been cooking up for a while. And I was just itching to start testing them out. They’re not earth-shattering or world-changing or prophecy-realizing … but a couple of ideas I’m anxious to experiment with and develop to see where they go. I’ll have more on these fledgling ideas in upcoming posts.
Secondly, I’ve had some non-startup, non-business personal activity I’ve needed to deal with. This has kept me fairly busy. It’s possible there may be a story or two eventually coming out of it in the future. Hell, all of life’s detours offer up stories don’t they.
Finally, there simply hasn’t been that much to report. While there’s been some activity in the last few months among various tech groups, most of it has been the typical monthly meetups. There’s been very little in the way of truly dynamic, interesting stuff to talk about. And that includes IgniteTech, the grass roots tech startup group I founded and co-organize. As far as I know there hasn’t been any significant tech startup news – fundings, growth, cash outs or anything else in the last several months.
I’ve reduced my time in IgniteTech because of my other commitments. Organizing activities takes a lot of time and effort. And when you’re doing it voluntarily it doesn’t pay the bills. But fortunately a young guy named Max, a tech startup founder himself, has stepped in to provide some much needed assistance to help keep the group going.
So, as I really consider it, I think the story is that there has been little going on that’s blog post-worthy. Maybe the things that haven’t happened ARE the story. The group that produced the first Startup Weekend event in Dayton last June, headed up by a hard-working facilitator named Dave Best, attempted to produce another event in the Fall of 2014. There just wasn’t enough interest to make it fly.
That’s Red Flag #1!
And I’ve tried to get a few more people to co-organize IgniteTech events … unsuccessfully. Max is the only one that’s actually jumped into the fray. While the group has grown to over 220 members, only a small handful have expressed any interest in becoming leaders or facilitators in the tech startup scene we’re attempting to build. I’d even got to the point of reducing the number of social hours and co-working sessions because the participation wasn’t there.
Unless a few others jump in and show that there’s a fledgling community worth trying to build, and people passionate enough to help build it … my decision making going forward will be very clear. Through IgniteTech we put out a survey to see what people would respond to. We received feedback, but the number of responses was disappointing.
That’s Red Flag #2!
Frankly, I’m seeing a lot of apathy and disinterest in building a tech startup community. At this point in the process I’m not seeing a real passion across a significant population to make decent strides in the near future. There are a handful of people really passionate about making something happen. But they seem few and far between. The people with the commitment to be entrepreneurs, AND to offer their blood and sweat to build a community, may not exist in a high enough concentration … right now.
That’s Red Flag #3!
2 1/2 years into the process I didn’t expect to have dozens of new launches funded with millions of angel and VC dollars along with 1 or 2 billion dollar valuations. But I thought further strides would be have been made. As I was reminded at the IgniteTech “Tech Night Out” social event in May, it takes a long time to build a dynamic tech startup scene from scratch. And, even though there has been a small bit of tech startup activity in the past, the Dayton region is really in the very early stages of a very long community-building process.
Patience, and a hell-of-a-lot of it, is indeed a virtue.
According to Brad Feld and some other experts, it can take up to 20 years to build a dynamic tech startup scene. His philosophy seems to be that a tech startup community has to be inclusive of anyone that wants to help build the community – No matter who they are or what their background is. But in order for it to be successful it must be driven by the very entrepreneurs that it will benefit the most.
If entrepreneurs (and their passionate partners) build it … then other entrepreneurs will come. And then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will become a Field of Tech Startup Dreams!
Without knowing anything about Brad Feld when I launched IgniteTech 2 1/2years ago, that was my exact same philosophy. It just makes common sense.
Maybe the Dayton region simply isn’t a good market for tech startups. At least not as a stand alone region. Frankly, the real region includes Columbus to the east, Cincinnati to the south, and Indianapolis to the west. All of these cities are within a 2 hour drive of Dayton. And the Dayton sub-region sits strategically, more or less, in the middle. Each of those other cities have made some good strides in building their own tech startup scenes. I think Dayton’s future with tech startups, if it has one, is to be a component of this larger region.
But only time will tell what happens. The question is – how much time?
Well, let’s touch base in, oh, 17 1/2 years and see where we are!
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
P.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group. Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas. Build your connections.
Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!