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!


Oh … and One More Thing – a Vertical Leap

When I announced that I was shifting my career to my own ventures, I said that there might be one more announcement.  At last Friday night’s event Graham and Ray announced that I have joined the team at Vertical Leap.

Here’s the announcement at the Vertical Leap site:  http://verticalleap.co/2012/05/19/the-business-invader/

This is just so cool!  I am absolutely thrilled to join in with Graham Bredemeyer, Ray Angel, and Scott BonAmi.  All top notch entrepreneurs.  All committed to growing the startup and entrepreneurial community here – and throughout our country.

Yeah, I know – it looks like I am just lining up as big a list of great entrepreneurs to work with as I can.

  • Chris Pelz
  • Gary Coker
  • Nick Arnett
  • Graham Bredemeyer
  • Ray Angel
  • Scott BonAmi

Maybe I am!  Can you blame me?

So, What Is Steve Up To, Anyway?

By now some of you have heard that I have decided to leave the Innovation Center.  I have waited to discuss this publicly until the Innovation Center made an organizational announcement, which they did yesterday.

Here’s what’s up.

First of all, you should know that I am not leaving the Fort Wayne startup community.  To the contrary, I am doubling down on it.  Starting June 1.

For the past eight years ago I have been counseling entrepreneurs to get serious about their ventures – that their ventures won’t grow as they wish without dedicated and focused effort.  During the same time I have grown a collection of “side ventures” of my own.

A while ago I decided to take my own advice.  It’s time for ME to get serious.


SCI Guild, LLC is a venture I co-founded with Gary Coker to make fun and interesting science stuff for young people.



My Fast Financials is a venture I co-founded with Chris Pelz to make it easy for entrepreneurs to create proforma financial statement projections.


Innovation Rules and Tools is my book about how to innovate anything on demand, a practical, hands-on guide for growth.



Beyond that, I want to find a way to do some kind of work in collaboration with Nick Arnett at Creative Collective,  because I absolutely love what he does.

Last, but certainly not least, I will have another announcement for you very soon.  Stay tuned!

For those of you who attend BizWiz or are in the NIIC Student Venture Lab, NIIC has contracted with me to lead those two programs through the summer, culminating in August’s Demo Day.  I’ll write some pithy reminiscences later about the absolutely wonderful experiences I’ve had with you all over the years.  In the meantime, let’s have some fun this summer!

Entrepreneurial Entrepreneurship Teachers – Part 4, Joyce Vogely

If only we had proof (or at least an example) that teaching entrepreneurial skills in Middle School leads to entrepreneurship careers later in life.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Well, read on!

I had the pleasure last year of being invited into Joyce Vogely’s Summit Middle School classroom.  Summit students were going to be issued laptops.  Joyce saw that as an opportunity to teach a little bit of innovation.

She set up a project where the students designed the procedures for how to store, care for, and keep track of the laptops.  I came into the classroom to help the students do some brainstorming about their project.


I’m pretty sure they had brainstormed before.  Check out how they papered the walls with ideas!  They did a great job, and came up with a number of very clever and thoughtful concepts.

But that is just part of the story.

I got to know Joyce in the first place because she taught two students who just graduated from the Innovation Center’s Student Venture Lab program.  Graham Bredemeyer and Scott BonAmi, co-founders of Roaring Mouse Innovations, were both taught by Joyce.  They later worked together in a Project Lead the Way class, where they cemented a friendship that has resulted in a prospering business.

I say that Joyce helped fuel the fire that is Roaring Mouse.  I know the relationship she has with these guys persists.  Here she is with Scott at the February Jumpstart260 entrepreneur meetup, an event that Scott and Graham are co-hosting along with Ray Angel.

Thank you, Joyce, for inspiring a generation of young entrepreneurs!  I can’t wait to see who else graduates from your classroom to the Fort Wayne startup scene!

Entrepreneurial Entrepreneurship Teachers – Part 1, Riley Johnson

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure to see some absolutely wonderful teachers in action.  They act entrepreneurial themselves, and as a result they find and cultivate the entrepreneurship in their students!

I have 6 teachers in mind who I already know deserve big kudos for their entrepreneurial work.  Yes, I am going to keep you in suspense for now about who they all are.  Please feel free to nominate your own favorite entrepreneurial teachers in the comments.

First up:  Riley Johnson of Wayne High School’s New Tech Academy.

Riley Johnson dressed for what one student called “Wacky, Tacky Thursday”
Pictured with student Su Su Lwin


I first met Riley a few years ago when a friend invited me to speak to Riley’s New Tech class about student entrepreneurship.  I found a teacher that encourages his students to think for themselves and approach learning entrepreneurially.

I’ve see him and his classes a few times since then.

  1. Once to talk to a digital media class that had a project with commercial possibilities.
  2. Last year, he brought the most students to the Innovation Center’s Youth Entrepreneurship Symposium (YES!) that any school has ever brought.
  3. Two years running to help judge class projects where student teams invent a business concept that brings cultural awareness to our city.  Each year I saw some projects that were thoughtful, bold, and absolutely good enough to commercialize for real.

And that leads me to why I was at New Tech last week.  A few months ago I got a call from Riley.  One of those groups wanted to talk about commercializing their project.  I came out to New Tech, met with them, and encouraged them to apply for the Innovation Center’s Student Venture Lab.  Their application came in, and I did a little research to assure myself that their team could pull off what they want to make – a mobile app for tourism and cultural tourism in Fort Wayne.  An app not just for out of town tourists, but for you and I to discover new wonderful places and events around town.

Meet Alex, Anthony, Su, and Corey – the latest additions to the Student Venture Lab.

Alex Cagle, Anthony Aquino, Su Su Lwin, Corey Mendenhall


We met this week to kick off work on their new venture.  Sometime within the next six months, you are going to be able to use a new mobile app to discover more about our community.

Thanks Riley, for helping bring entrepreneurship out of the classroom and into the community!