Last month, I was in the middle of one of the biggest project of my life. And if not for a few remarkable people, I’m not sure I’d be here now on other side.
I can still put myself in that moment…
I hit send on an email response #247 of the evening as I glimpse the hour on the clock tick past 3:00 AM. I swear I distinctly heard that “tick.” Less than two weeks out from the first day of the Powder Keg; conference for startups I had announced just 2 months earlier.
Our team had built impressive momentum including early Powder Keg press coverage, hundreds of new email subscribers, and six figures in new sponsorships. Yet there are months of work to complete (in a two-week period) before the first day of our three-day event that was to fill more than six venues.
In moments like these, doubt can start to creep in.
Lucky for me, I had something bigger than myself as the driving force. That’s why I have something important to say to the people who helped us build this first year of the Powder Keg:
You showed me we could do it. Then you helped find a way for us to create it together.
You helped build the vision.
Thousands of Verge members raised their hands and said we should build something like the Powder Keg in Indianapolis. The emails, tweets, and comments built the scaffolding of Indiana’s first national startup conference.
Other regional startup conferences like The Combine, Chicago Tech Week, and Big Omaha inspired the Powder Keg experience. They showed us how we could develop our own voice and plant our own flag. Industry thought leaders, like best-selling author and Powder Keg presenter Julien Smith, helped us refine our vision into something with a platform that could be articulated.
You lay the foundation.
Exact Target is one of Indy’s most successful software companies and they are the leader in the email marketing space. They are also fire starters who still flex their entrepreneurial muscle by supporting grass-roots efforts like the Powder Keg.
With the help of Exact Target CMO Tim Kopp and Vice President Mike Fitzgerald, we were able to bridge the gap between an established enterprise company and the startup community growing nationwide. Exact Target Marketing Director Amanda Leet and Senior Director Scott Roth collaborated with the Powder Keg to integrate our entrepreneurial energy into their global user conference, Connections.
Support came all the way from the top, with Exact Target founders Scott Dorsey and Chris Baggott, who candidly shared their entrepreneurial insight on the final day of the Powder Keg. They helped engage the regional software community to rally around our startup movement in a way that was nothing short of magical.
You showed that you care.
I was blown away. We had a legion of people who stepped forward to enroll in the Powder Keg experience as volunteers. These teammates built the Powder Keg brick by brick and their fingerprints are all over the best parts of the event.
Early support from sponsors like Ice Miller, Compendium, and Barnes and Thornburg poured fuel on the fire. Meeting requests and phone calls to discuss Powder Keg with these organizations were met with, “How can I help?”
Dozens of other local organizations, who consistently breathe life into the startup community, came out to support the Powder Keg. People supported through sponsorship, PR, media production, venue location, event management, and event experiences like Wi-Fi, food and beverage, and photo booths. That’s how people knew that the Powder Keg was going to be exceptional.
Within 24 hours of announcing the event, we had more than 500 people sign up for updates through the email list. The social networks exploded with conversation from Verge members and friends of our group. This momentum built into incredible movement.
You brought it to life.
We found our name and defined the Powder Keg look thanks to KA+A, one of the best brand design agencies in the world. I put KA+A president Kristian Andersen on speed dial for brand discussions and event input. This must have driven Kristian nuts, but the hundreds of founders, builders, and investors who attended the Powder Keg experienced the impact of those conversations.
Local web design and marketing agency, SmallBox, helped build and maintain the Powder Keg website and get the word out about the event. Founder Jeb Banner went out of his way to support the event through shared resources, personal invitations, and dozens of other moments of assistance.
Without this strong local support, Powder Keg would have never made the connections to our national partners like Startup America, the YEC, Microsoft, Tech Cocktail, Fortify VC, Tech Zulu, and App Developers Alliance. They erected the platform from which Powder Keg participants could work their magic.
You shared the experience.
We had 12 startups bring their A-game to the Startup Bowl pitch competition at Lucas Oil Stadium. Their skill and ambition engaged our judges from Navidar, Microsoft, Elevate Ventures, and Fortify VC. Investors and other attendees in the audience gave their time and attention to get a taste of what is growing out of the Midwest startup scene.
By showing up with energy, ideas, and questions, attendees and participants set the tone for the Powder Keg. Even now, you still share the follow up articles and news. You fanned the flame as the stories came out in Forbes, the Indy Star, IBJ, Tech Cocktail, Tech Zulu and other blogs.
I hope that you enjoyed Powder Keg as much as I did. And if you couldn’t make it this year, I hope that you’ll be able to join us for some of the magic in the future.
Without you we couldn’t have done it. So, I’d love to know what you liked and, even more, what you’d like to see if we do another Powder Keg event next year.