I had the chance to sit down with Bryan Baker Signal-Return’s printer-in-residence. The moment you start talking letterpress with Bryan, you can feel his passion for the art of printing. A Hamtramck resident, Bryan started teaching workshops and classes at the studio two years ago, and he’s been with Signal-Return full time since February. Here’s Bryan’s take on this unique Detroit business.
Celebrating Startups & Tech in Detroit
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the entrepreneurial gold rush happening in Detroit. It’s been almost 4 years since Detroit hit rock bottom, but you wouldn’t know that. The enthusiasm and passion in the air downtown is contagious, and the amount of cool new stuff in Detroit, seems never ending.
There are hot pockets of activity in Detroit—downtown, midtown, and Corktown. Traffic is increasing to the suburbs. The university triangle with University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State is booming with talented grads wanting to stay in Detroit.
Detroit’s newest Mayor Duggan is off to a fantastic start. On a technical front, he just hired a new CIO to turn around the city’s antiquated technology systems.
The momentum is building every day.
And it’s time for an event to celebrate and strengthen the growing entrepreneurial community downtown. An event that can grow year-over-year in Detroit. An event led by entrepreneurs, a key anchor in building startup communities, as outlined by Brad Feld in his book, Startup Communities.
Bringing Techweek to Detroit
In 2013 I was exchanging emails with Dan Gilbert about having our own SxSw-like event in Detroit. At the end of the email chain, Dan quipped, “Make it happen, Ted”.
Yikes. I’m a venture guy. And a former developer. But event planner? Not in my DNA.
But, I’m on a mission to be one of the heroes that helped rebuild Detroit. There must be a way, I’ll figure it out, I thought to myself.
And serendipity has a way of speeding up that figuring-out process. The following week in April, I was on a call with Techweek. They wanted me to attend the 2013 Chicago Techweek. They proceeded to say they were expanding in 2014 to NYC and Miami. At the end of our conversation, I told them they needed to be in Detroit, May 2014. After they stopped laughing, I said, no really, you need to.
After a few more calls, the Techweek crew visited Detroit. After an hour, they were sold. The energy downtown, the incredible office spaces, and density of startups on the Madison Block, they knew a Detroit Techweek could be huge.
And May 2014 it was.
Building Up the Startup Ecosystem
My vision for Detroit’s startup ecosystem includes many startup oriented events, happening every month. Events that help further define Detroit’s presence as a fast-growing region for high tech startups.
I’d like to see, at least 2x a year, a weeklong event that helps anchor the year and shine a bright spot on the Detroit startup ecosystem. An event or two that people from all over look forward to year after year. An event that can serve as an umbrella for other events happening the same week.
And what better brand than Techweek to become one of these events. An event that will have a lasting impact on Detroit, including:
- Changing the conversation about tech in Detroit – this will be the biggest impact. Celebrating technology as a whole, not as a specific industry. Uniting and expanding the conversation around entrepreneurship and startups. Working in a Silicon-Valley-esque manner but tailored to the strengths of the region.
- Activating the metro-Detroit tech community – getting people in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and beyond together. Encouraging networking and collaboration and helping to break down silos. Bringing disparate groups together that might not have worked together in the past.
- Growing alongside a fast changing Detroit – Techweek is not a fly-by-night operation. They are coming to Detroit and planning to stay. As the city grows and industries change, Techweek will grow and adapt. I expect we’re going to surpass 10,000 folks at Techweek 2016 and 20,000 by 2020. Yes, we’re thinking big (and starting small).
Want to get involved? Leave a comment below and I’ll follow up.