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
The End Times Cometh!
The total number of members belonging to an organization, society, etc.
If you’ve been reading these updates you know that IgniteTech is a group I launched in January 2013 as a means to gather people interested in building a dynamic grassroots tech startup scene in the Dayton, OH region. In December of 2014 the IgniteTech membership stood at about 190 people. Since then the membership has increased to over 270 people. That’s pretty good growth, especially for the Dayton, OH region. 80 more members in 8 months. So that’s some real good news right?
And yet, the last event IgniteTech attempted to co-produce with two other tech groups – a beer and bowling party – could only muster 4 registrations … including me! So we had to cancel it. Since last year I’ve noticed a decline in registrations for IgniteTech social events as well as our monthly pitching/co-working meetups.
So what does this mean?
Well it seems that the membership doesn’t like what we’re offering. And to attempt to counteract this declining trend in participation, we issued a survey early this year to get a sense of what people want. While there were a few responses, I would call it tepid at best. And over the last 2 years I’ve also seen lukewarm interest in other tech startup activities not sponsored by IgniteTech.
What it means is … the IgniteTech membership not only doesn’t like what we’ve tried to offer, but doesn’t care much to tell us what they actually do want.
So why does the membership keep growing?
Well, uh, geez … Hell if I know!
Maybe people just like joining stuff, whether they plan to participate or not!
The adhesive friction of a body on some surface, as a wheel on a rail or a tire on a road
Initially, IgniteTech was able to get a little traction in interest with our early events. Our typical attendance was in the range of 20 – 25 people. As I look back I think a big part of this was that there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING going on in the tech startup scene. I mean NOTHING! Hell there actually wasn’t a tech startup scene at all.
While there always have been and will be individuals interested in launching the next billion dollar IPO, there wasn’t an actual grassroots community that existed around tech startups. A community that supported, critiqued, and collaborated to help launch more ventures. I think the initial interest in IgniteTech events was also driven by an intrigue at the prospect of something new.
But as time progressed, our ability to maintain that initial traction has become a whole lot more challenging. The tread wear on these tires is pretty damned thin. New tires are probably needed. But frankly is it really worth the effort to try to regain the traction?
Keeping with the auto metaphor, maybe it’s best if someone with a brand new car came in to try and burn a little rubber in the tech startup scene. Oops. That would actually wear off the tread wouldn’t it. Bad metaphor.
A group called Startup Grind has recently launched in Dayton. Maybe it will gain some traction. And there’s rumblings of a new attempt at another Startup Weekend. Perhaps with their past experience as a guide, they’ll be able to pull it off. I really wish both of these efforts the best. The region needs new blood, new ideas, new energy.
A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists
With this in mind, the Dayton region does have an existing tech community that is made up of programmers, designers, engineers, project managers, small business owners … etc. Then there’s the sub-community within the broader tech community that consists of founders of tech-related ventures that are launching ideas, seeking angel and venture funding, and trying to achieve a high growth trajectory.
But these communities are mostly a collection of individuals and teams working their own ventures, with minimal ongoing interaction and collaboration among others in the “community”. But if there’s minimal ongoing interaction, and there’s little mutual support, is it really a community at all?
Well I say no. It’s not. Definitely not.
At least not the type of community that can lead to building a truly dynamic tech startup scene. It’s simply a collection of individuals. No more. When I look around the country at some of the cities/regions where tech startups are really emerging (Las Vegas; Columbus; Washington, DC; Chicago; even Detroit) there appear to be active grassroots communities that hold well-attended events. As an outsider, there appears to be great enthusiasm for activities that allow people to bump and connect (I’m tired of saying “colliding”). Even lil’ ole’ Reno, NV (similar to Dayton in size and its loss of traditional industry jobs – casinos in this case) is trying to become a tech startup player. And it just might succeed too.
In my next post, I’ll conclude my thoughts on the status of IgniteTech and the Dayton tech startup scene in Rustbelt Rising #14: Part II.
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!