Renaissance – Post 1 of ?

I’ve used the word “Renaissance” to describe what I see happening in the Fort Wayne entrepreneur community right now.  We are moving out of a slump, the equivalent of the entrepreneurial Dark Ages.

In much earlier days the city was an entrepreneurial center.  TV was invented here, for goodness sake.  More recently we evolved into a manufacturing economy.  A very successful one.  Household income was high – above the national average.  We became a suburban city.  Families moved to the suburbs, followed by businesses.  Many families had a home, a lake cottage, multiple cars, maybe a boat, etc.  Fat and happy.  Complacent.

And then manufacturing changed.  Jobs left.  Wages dropped – to significantly less than the national average.  New entrepreneurial non-manufacturing business didn’t necessarily step in to fill the gap or create new businesses centers like in California, Boston, Austin, and Seattle (although there were certainly some highly successful entrepreneurs here creating companies during that time).  The downtown area that had lost residents and businesses during the suburban flight now looked emptier (or maybe we just noticed it more because we weren’t all at the lake).

We started to hear more and more talk about our youth leaving for opportunities elsewhere.  It was a slump, just as much a slump as the batter who  can’t get a hit to save his life.

The slump is over.

It is starting with our young entrepreneurs.  Watch Brandon Smits’ documentary “Startup City”.  And keep in mind Nyzzy’s words –

“Just a group of kids trying to get it on, 
but we’re gonna be the ones to put the city on” – Nyzzy Nyce

In coming posts, I’ll go into more detail about all of this:

  • the nonprofits – like WunderKammer, A Better Fort, Twelve Cities, and Believe in a Dream.
  • the videographers – like Kelly Lynch and Brandon Smits.
  • the techies – like Dave Corcoran, Ryan Imel, Graham Bredemeyer, Scott BonAmi, Ray Angel, Justin Sharpe, and the Mobile Developers Club.
  • the fashion entrepreneurs – like Olivia Fabian and Jamal Robinson.
  • the people who do amazing selfless things – like Andrea and Micah Rapp and Andrew Hoffman.
  • the artists – like the Huntington University Digital Media Arts people, Paradigm Magazine, the Comic-Con people, and everyone who exhibits at Conspiracy, Firefly, and 816 Pint and Slice.
  • the catalysts – like the Innovation Center, its Student Venture Lab, Founders,
    Vertical Leap,and the Millennial 2020 program.
  • the business clusters – like Wayne and Calhoun, Wells Street, SoCal, Broadway, and Wells Street.

And many more people, places, and things.  Stay tuned!

A New Venture – Founders – at 614 S. Harrison

It seems like forever since I’ve posted here.  A lot has happened during that time.  Important stuff.  Together with Ray Angel and Ryan Imel, I helped found a new venture called Founders.

The night of the last Vertical Leap event, Ray and Ryan started to talk about creating a space where independent developers, artists, makers, entrepreneurs, and others could work to build things.  Six days later, we had the keys to 614 S. Harrison Street.

Another six days later, and without even being officially open yet, over 70 people have been through Founders to see the space.  As I write this from a table in the main room, there is one developer working to my right and three other people off having a talk in one of the front rooms (and since I first wrote that earlier today), about 7 other people have come through).  And this is pretty much the quietest I’ve seen it in days!

The vibe is incredible!

People just show up and do work.  Sometimes by themselves at the main room table with their headphones on.  Sometimes together collaborating on a project.  As Jeremy says, “collaborating the sh*t out of something over at Founders”.  We had a team from the Millennial 2020 Sparktank event head over to work on their winning project.  Nick W. and Evan set up a photo shoot in the back room (and took a few shots of Ray and I while they were there).  And, of course, lot of folks congregate in the front rooms to plan projects in dry erase on the windows.



You’d think that would be enough.  But wait, there’s more!

Besides people showing up to do some work on their ideas, people have just been bringing us stuff!  We had keys less than a few hours when Nick of Twelve Cities brought the “Nick Arnett Memorial Table”.  Destany and Mitch of Colagrossi Studio brought back some Ikea tables from Schaumburg – and then hung out to help set them up.  Ben brought a humongo table, Baskets brought some bar stools – and much more (I’m sure I’ve left a lot of people out who dropped off something).


Come and visit.  Just remember to check in when you arrive!