The Journal Gazette
Monday, September 16, 2019 1:00 am

Five questions for Dave Sanders

Founder and board chair, Start Fort Wayne

1 What is Startup Week Fort Wayne?

Startup Week Fort Wayne (Oct. 14-18) is a time of celebration of our startups and small business entrepreneurs, as well as a time for the community to get together and learn from one another, network and form collaborations for the next year. Partners around the region will be hosting workshops, talks and award events during the day at Cinema Center, and then each evening we have a headline event for the entire community at locations around downtown Fort Wayne.


2 Who is the intended audience?

The intended audience is small business owners, startup founders and what I call the “entrepreneurial curious.” Maybe you have a back-of-the-napkin idea you think could be a product. Maybe you see a missing service that people need. Maybe you're an old hand serial entrepreneur and have been around the block. Everyone will learn something and can make really great connections that help their plans for the next year.


3 This is the second annual event – what did you learn from last year's Startup Week?

We learned a lot about how to run these events, and what works and what doesn't. Last year, our events were all over the city, sometimes at conflicting times. This year we decided to host in one location so that attendees wouldn't have to travel so much. We also decided to have a “hang out” area for between events so that people could meet, talk and network outside of the sessions. This year is much more a “conference” feel, and at a good conference sometimes the best conversations happen in the lobby. We wanted to facilitate that experience this year. Ultimately, the point of Startup Week is to make connections with people like you and have a good time.


4 You are the founder of a couple of startups – what are the biggest challenges?

Every startup is different, but the biggest challenge for any business is really simple: Can I make a thing and do people want it enough to buy it, and can I sell it for more than it costs to make? That's it. It's no big secret. Often we get wrapped up in all sorts of other “stuff” when thinking about our businesses, when really we should just think “am I able to make more money than I spend on this, and does anyone care?”


5 How would you rate the entrepreneurial spirit in Fort Wayne?

We are entering into what is seen as the “hockey stick” part of the graph, I think, where we begin to see exponential growth. As a community, we've come a long way in the past five years, but we're still well behind many of our peer cities in Indiana and the Midwest.

But the energy is growing exponentially, and as a community we are starting to put some real resources behind this very necessary part of our economy. It's not all sunshine and roses yet, but I think we're starting to head in the right direction.

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