Mission

To build a new economy in Fort Wayne, we need to rely on those new ventures created by people whose sole purpose is to create a “new way.” A new way of life for them and their employees, new technology or inventions that makes the world a better place, and new markets that no one has even dreamed up yet. While large, established companies make up a vital part of our economy, entrepreneurs bring the energy and new life that can shake up everything.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses provide 55% of all jobs in the United States, and they have created 66% of all new net jobs since the 1970s. Since 1990 large companies eliminated 4 million jobs, while small businesses created 8 million. And small businesses, in the right environments and markets, can grow to be world leaders. Think about how many Internet businesses you use on a daily basis that did not exist 20 years ago. It’s a new economy, built on the backs of startups and new ideas, and Fort Wayne needs to participate.

Start Fort Wayne is building a thriving entrepreneur and high-growth tech community in northeast Indiana.

Information technology has transformed our entire world, in every way. When one motivated student in a dorm room can create a multi-billion dollar company from scratch, it doesn't matter where they live. With our great quality-of-life and low cost of living, there is no reason why the next Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce, or Microsoft couldn't originate here. We need a vibrant tech startup community to help attract, retain, and fund those startup inventors here in our city.

Start Fort Wayne considers itself a “start-up” that uses agile methods to achieve its goals. We are not trying to build a huge organization with overreaching pie-in-the-sky goals. Instead, we are looking to find the niches where we can serve the community the best, act quickly, and study the effects of what we do so that we can repeat and scale those ideas fast.

Our Three Areas of Focus

Start Fort Wayne boils its mission, programs, and projects into three simple areas.

Community

If you look at any thriving tech entrepreneur friendly city in the country, the first thing you notice is that there is a community. Individuals have a harder time getting their ideas off the ground without networks, contacts, talent, and other resources. Furthermore, having a vibrant community is a feedback loop, with successes begetting excitement, which leads to more success.

Fort Wayne has had an entrepreneur spirit for well over a hundred years. There are lots of smart people coming up with great ideas all over our region. But we need to find ways to get them connected and help them multiply their efforts.

Projects in our Community area typically involve meetups, conferences, tours, and other events that help bring entrepreneurs and technologists into the same place. Bringing 1 Million Cups to Fort Wayne is a prime example, because we now have a weekly, well attended, entrepreneur education event every single week.

Education

You can't build a high growth startup culture without education. Technology has very suddenly pushed our world through immense change and growth. To compete, we need to have the world's best talent, and part of acquiring that talent is to grow it here.

Start Fort Wayne helps to create and bring programming for K-Adult in both entrepreneurism and technology. If we teach kids to be excited about tech, via programming and electronics discovery, some will find that fire to learn more and turn it into a career. If we teach adults how to properly run a business, how to find funding, and how to build something properly, they have less chance of failure and a better understanding about how to grow and create more jobs and opportunity in our region.

One negative effect of rapid technology growth is the division between the "have's" and the "have not's." It makes no sense to ignore half of our potential workforce and innovators in our city, simply because of economics. We want our programs to be accessible by everyone, so that we all benefit and grow together.

Our early education programs will focus on kids learning technology in a hands-on effective way. As our organization grows, the sky is the limit on the types of education services and innovation we can bring to our community.

Space

In order to educate, and in order to grow a community, we need a space to house it. Coworking spaces across the country are becoming nexus points for the entrepreneur and startup communities. Even though you can use your cell phone to have a video chat with someone half-way around the world, we still need a place to be around others like us and interact in the same physical space.

Atrium is the first project that we launched because we knew we needed that nexus, a home for the community we are trying to build. Over time, we will expand with other projects to help define other spaces, or to define other ways to create and expand these communities.