Innovation Alliance: where do we go from here?

Jason Pappas wrapping us up and telling us where we go from here:
  • Want to continue the conversation beyond tonight
  • Need volunteers: help with design process, event programming ideas, etc.
  • They haven’t come to the community before until they knew it was real and had a good chance of succeeding
  • There’s a great potential location for the hub on the east side of the city on northwest corner of Central Ave & Pratt St, an old building called the “car barn”. IA group has control of the site. The developer who owns it is here.
  • Join in, we need help!
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Answers to the question “do we need a space”?

  • Lack of a space == fragmentation, hindered gatherings and further siloing
  • There’s a temporariness that adds to the planning costs for putting on an event (because venues tend to change, get scheduled one-off) which costs energy
  • Needs to be really vibrant
  • You know when you go there you’ll have a positive experience
  • Needs to serve more than just tech startups
  • Hub needs to provide a coordinating function - even without its own space it could help facilitate access to meeting space around the city
  • Is it a work space or is it a place for events?
  • Need something like a house, a multiuse space centered around a “kitchen” not a “great room”. How about a “couch in the kitchen and a living room and offices all around it”
  • Need clusters and ways to find affinity groups - maybe “mini-silos…silos with ventilation”
  • Can’t just have one hub. Should not be government-mandated.
  • "Space that grows with you" - how about a zip card for space?
  • Would be great to have a daycare
  • Need to put an exciting brand around this hub - advertise as “the place” for innovation
  • Has some kind of leadership guiding events
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Answers to the question “connect to whom?”

With whom should we connect?
  • Investors: not just for money but for other things they bring to the table
  • Cofounders & collaborators & employees
  • "aspirational peers"
  • "Powers that be"
  • Different kinds of people
  • Potential customers
  • Talent: students, freelancers
  • Professional services (accountants/marketeers/lawyers etc)
  • Innovative thinkers
  • People who support and challenge our ideas
  • Let’s connect students with the workforce
  • Advisors/mentors
  • People with connections to markets in other regions
  • Leaders of the “feds, meds, eds, and beds" institutions

Why are we not doing this?

  • Baltimore culture may not lend itself to connecting behavior (as compared to places like Silicon Valley)
  • Baltimore can be cliquey
  • Not enough people serving as connectors

How can we do this?

  • Reward this behavior - make it someone’s job to be a connector
  • Encourage events that bring arts & tech communities together a la Ignite
  • Relaxed environment with 24/7 availability
  • Happy hours
  • Flexible space to accomodate small and large meetings

Other ideas:

  • Let’s import ideas and people from outside of Baltimore (permanently and temporarily) as a physical or virtual guest (e.g. have a speaker at General Assembly addressing a crowd in Baltimore via Skype, or vice versa)
  • Bring arts into STEM aka STEAM
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"Lots of overlapping circles of people here at the Innovation Alliance meeting… A UN of Baltimore doers and thinkers"


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Next question: connect to whom?

Tables now discussing: with whom to do you want to connect? Who are they and what do they do for you? Under what circumstances do you want to connect? What stands in the way?

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Answers to the question “why connect”?

Going table by table to get answers to the question “why connect?”:
Why connect?
  • Need to create new ideas
  • Ability to meet people not like you
  • Need to exit vacuum of your own thoughts, opportunity to engage people
  • Need help building energy: the vibe that comes from being with other people
  • Learning from others
  • Discovering potential new collaborators
  • Baltimore has a fragmented startup/business culture. Side note: there are 200 neighborhoods in Baltimore and 900 neighborhood associations.
  • Need to “bust silos” among different institutions
  • Face to face interaction is very valuable even though we have many ways to connect virtually
  • Could use a “place where things are happening”
  • Great benefit from serendipitous exchange of all kinds of ideas (not just tech ideas)

How are we doing this now?

  • Starbucks meetings
  • "I go out and find stuff on the Internet"
  • Conferences (locally and nationally - you meet plenty of people from Baltimore at national conferences)
  • Randomly, with little or no strategy
  • Coworking
  • Informal knowledge transfer
  • Startups meet in different places than investors and established businesses

Nice moment: there’s a Baltimore city schools teacher here who got a round of applause.

One table pointed out that Maryland is mainly a rural state and we need to find ways to connect with people who don’t live in cities.

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Newt Fowler gave a talk at Ignite Baltimore #9 outlining the vision that brought us here

(Source: youtube.com)

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The evening’s agenda

Need to connect

Need to connect with whom

Need for a space to connect

Need to succeed

Discussion will take place on a per-table basis, and two people are taking notes on the discussion to capture it all.

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What does the innovation community need?

Greg Conderacci is the moderator and that is the main question we will be answering. The guest list is here: http://innovationalliancetownhall.eventbrite.com/

Newt Fowler: we want to put the politics and the bricks and mortar together to help innovators, but we aren’t the ones with the ideas of what to put here.

Pat Larrabee and her team conducted a survey, got a lot of feedback. Top six needs from 170 responses:

  • Connectivity
  • Opportunity
  • Creative environment
  • Quality of life
  • Sense of “place”
  • Like-minded community

Pat also researched what’s going on in other cities at incubators, coworking facilities, etc. Her report should be publicly available by the end of the month.

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I’m live blogging today’s innovation community townhall

I’m live blogging today’s innovation community townhall

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