The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 01, 2019 1:00 am

2nd Startup Week on tap

Event designed for all owners, potential entrepreneurs

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Business and community leaders passionate about seeing businesses launch and grow have planned the second Startup Week for Fort Wayne.

The five-day event, scheduled to begin Oct. 14, is designed to encourage and equip business owners and potential entrepreneurs. 

“Our first Startup Week in 2018 was to test the waters to see if a demand for a conference like this was viable,” Dave Sanders, founder and board chair of the nonprofit organization Start Fort Wayne, said in a statement last week. “We learned quickly that there is a tremendous need by business builders for information, resources and connections. This year's conference is filled with distinctive and engaging programs to help meet that need.”

The program, run by volunteers, is in coordination with Techstars, a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Startup Weeks have been held in numerous cities, including Detroit, Denver and Dallas.

Twenty-four activities, including workshops and panel discussions, are scheduled.

“Business owners regardless of the stage of their company can benefit by attending at least one session,” Sanders said through email.

About 350 individuals signed up last year for Startup Week, and the activities had a combined attendance of about 750, he said. Organizers hope to “vastly grow the event.”

Sponsors include the city of Fort Wayne, Parkview Health and Fort Wayne Metals.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry will host an Oct. 14 luncheon where attendees can learn about city services.

“Startups and small businesses are vital to creating a robust economy that can adapt quickly in a competitive and dynamic business environment,” Henry said in a statement.

The luncheon is free and open to all business owners and individuals engaged in a startup effort. But guests will be asked for a $5 donation when they sign in, and the money will help cover Startup Week Fort Wayne in 2020.

For this year, organizers have planned an inaugural Exalt Awards for Women in Business hosted by Own Your Success. Other highlights include a Commercialization Engine workshop led by the IDEA Center of the University of Notre Dame; sessions on “Infusing Technology into Minority Businesses;” “Startup 101: Legality of Business;” and “Bridging the Gap between Startup and Success.”

Barbara Baekgaard, co-founder of Vera Bradley, will be a featured speaker at an Oct. 16 evening event at The Philmore on Broadway.

And Steven Reading, a strategist and global business developer, will be the featured presenter on opening night.

Reading is founder of a worldwide innovation practice focusing on competitive analysis, strategic partnerships, digital transformation, mergers and acquisitions, technology foresight, startup analysis and market entry.

“Reading's experience in the startup and innovation community runs deep,” a news release about Startup Week said. “In 2004, the same year Facebook was founded, Steven co-founded Dogster, an online community startup that hosted over one million daily users.”

Dogster, and its sister brand Catster, were acquired by SAY Media in 2011. Reading later became the head of corporate innovation and startup development for swissnex.

“Startup Week Fort Wayne underscores the importance of a vibrant startup culture in positioning northeast Indiana to compete economically on both national and global levels for new talent, innovations and businesses,” a news release about next month's event said.

Building on last year's experience, Sanders is excited about the speakers and potential to attract larger numbers this year.

“We expect this year's event to reach further into the community, as well as draw some attendees from outside the region and across the state,” he said.

Event details

What: Startup Week Fort Wayne will be Oct. 14-18.

Cost: The free five-day event, open to the public at various locations.

Signing up: The schedule of events and registration is available at

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily