TekVenture’s Chain Reaction Challenge Storms the Library

I arrived at the Allen County Public Library an hour ago.  I walked in beside a family, and the little boy in the family asked his dad what all those people were.  The father didn’t know, so I explained that it was the TekVenture Chain Reaction Challenge and would be very cool.  I just saw them walk by me as I write this – they’ve been here an hour wandering around checking out the Rube Goldberg devices.

One of the attractions is the Purdue entry in the 2011 Rube Goldberg Competition, picture below.  In my very informal survey (I asked my best friend’s two sons), this was a clear favorite.

Purdue University’s Society of Professional Engineers
& Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
2011 Rube Goldberg Competition Entry.

One of the TekVenture organizers, Jane Applegate, told me that they maxed out their available space this year with submissions from 16 teams!  As she said, “We are really excited by the fact that we maxed out the space this year.  This is just such a great forum for the general public to get a sense for what it will be like when  TekVenture has its permanent home!”

She went on to say, “Different links in the Chain Reaction are represented by families, school friends, business colleagues – a true community chain reaction.

Here are some pics.  Enjoy!

Are You a Maker?

I was having dinner a while ago with a friend and was explaining how TekVenture is organizing a Fort Wayne Regional Maker Faire here October 1 and 2, 2011.  He asked me “What’s a maker?”.

You might think, “Hey, if you have to ask, you aren’t one”, but in this case you’d be very wrong.  Makers (see Make Magazine – where it all started) “build, hack [the “good” kind of hacking], tweak, share, and discover” for the sheer enjoyment of building, hacking, tweaking, sharing, and discovering.

My friend is a Maker, through and through, but he just didn’t label himself that way.  He builds elaborate mechanical and electronic “projects” with his 3 kids.  He and his kids always have some sort of science project going on.  He is the kind of guy that can fix that gizmo of yours that just broke – don’t bother to send it back to the manufacturer.  His basement has more spare parts and tools than a well-equipped Do-It-Best hardware store.  He can explain how things work, and even do it in language that his kids (as young as 6) or your grandmother will understand.

You know the type.  Does this describe you?  Does this describe someone you know?  Have you, your daughter, your son, or your husband built something cool – just for the heck of it?  If so, go to the TekVenture Fort Wayne Regional Maker Faire website, click through to the Call for Makers page and sign up to join 99 other people just like yourself showing off your work at the event!

15 Ideas

Last week, Graham from Grabachat (and Pypline) and I hung out for a couple of hours with 2 students, Mitch and Paul, over at the newest student center at IPFW’s student housing.

Mitch had called and set up the time to talk about what I thought was just a single business idea he had.  He said he might have some other people  show up if they had any business ideas to discuss, but what we found when we got there was really inspiring.

1. Mitch had a business partner.  I personally have found over the past years that venture success increases dramatically when the founder is not alone.  It is always good to have someone else to bounce ideas off of, brainstorm with, and to share the workload of a startup.  Mitch and Paul were both there, and both enthusiastic about getting some feedback about their long list of ideas.

2.  They had 15 ideas!  Not 1.  15!  I had expected to be pitched about one business idea and probably be shown a somewhat complete business plan by someone who was very stuck on that one idea.  Nope.  Graham and I asked them to pick the best one and start with that – and then go down the list one by one.  They did, and we ended up with (in my opinion, at least, ) 3 product ideas very worth pursuing.

3.  They had a prototype of one product!  And it was being used at the student center – holy customer validation, Batman!  When the time came to talk about it, Mitch ran outside our room, got it, and brought it in.  Very cool – and it just happened that I already knew some people selling similar products and could hook them up.

4.  They listened.  Graham and I didn’t gush over each idea.  Most we thought wouldn’t be feasible, for one reason or another.  They listened to that feedback.  I had asked Graham to come along specifically to talk about what it was like at Startup Weekend Indy for Grabachat and in the formative days of Pypline.  They listened to that.  Before we left, I outlined the early stages of a venture, the Lean Startup process, and the Business Model Canvas for them – introducing them to the world of Steve Blank and Alexander Osterwalder.  They listened.

Great job Mitch and Paul.  I see good things in your startup future.


Techfest – 10

This will be my last post of the day.

I was able to stay long enough to see the keynote address by Zach Klein.  Here’s the opening slide – what a fitting way to end this set of posts (since, for those of you who may not know, my work is to grow entrepreneurship in Fort Wayne).

The slide says it all.

Thank you to all of the people who helped make TechFest possible – there are a bunch of sponsors, including the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, where I work.  Special thanks to the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, who organized the whole affair.  Nice work!

Good bye, all.  See you next year,



Techfest – 9

Big thanks to Zach Zuber, who stopped out and spent a good part of the day here at the NIIC table.

Part of the time, he was telling students how NIIC’s BizWiz program and Student Venture Lab help students with business ventures.

Part of the time he was doing customer development, talking to students about the venture that he and other NIIC-associated people just started (GrabaChat), listening to what they thought of the value proposition, and signing people up for the upcoming beta release.  For more written here about GrabaChat, read this earlier post about how it was formed.

Then, Zach had the opportunity to discuss this new venture with our keynote speaker, serial tech entrepreneur Zach Klein.

My thanks again to BOTH Zachs for coming to TechFest 2011.