Next week, Cincinnati will host, for the first time ever, the 2016 Techstars’ FounderCon. Over 1000 founders from accelerators across the world will come to our city for a two days of networking, business development and thought leadership.
We recently spoke with John Hill, Techstars’ Network Catalyst, about what he is excited about this year and the impact FounderCon will have on participants and on StartupCincy.
Cintrifuse: Why did FounderCon decide to come to Cincinnati?
John Hill: It all started with Wendy Lea reaching out and asking if our annual conference would be interested in Cincinnati as a location. That happened almost two years ago and in 2015 she came to FounderCon in Boulder. We discussed what it would be like to have Cincinnati as a location and she invited us out in November of last year to take a look at what the city had to offer.
After our visit, we went away thinking it was the perfect location. The city has a burgeoning entrepreneurial scene, great connections to Techstars’ companies like FamilyTech, Lisnr and one of our Techstars Fund companies ConnXus, Cintrifuse is attached to the Techstars Fund. Historically, we only look at having FounderCon where we have actual accelerators but we thought if we were going to take a little bit of a risk try a new community then Cincinnati is perfect. It absolutely fits our ethos about being for entrepreneurs everywhere else and that entrepreneurs can have support regardless of geography.
It all just kind of came together from there.
CF: What do you hope Techstars founders will experience in the city or take away from Cincinnati?
JH: I think first and foremost we were blown away by the support that was offered by the local community to showcase FounderCon. We knew, based on that support, that our founders would get a ideal experience because the city was there to help us put on the best experience we could for our founders.
Our hopes are that the founders get to see the city through the eyes we now have because we’ve been so connected to Cincinnati and Cintrifuse over the last year. We’re really looking forward to spending two and a half days there.
CF: What would you hope that Cincinnati, as a city, takes away from the experience.
JH: One of the things that we talked about early on is utilizing FounderCon to generate a sense of place for entrepreneurship and Cincinnati would be a perfect example of what we hope to achieve which is a long-lasting, residual effect out of the conference. Not only sharing some of our thought leadership through the community event so that we can help some of the companies within that market achieve the successes that their looking for but also cross connecting our founders with universities, with the BigCos that you have in the market, with the entrepreneurs in the market and hoping that they stay tied together long after FounderCon leaves Cincinnati.
CF: You’ve been to Cincinnati almost ten times now, for those coming in from out of town, do you have craft beer recommendations for them?
JH: I’m partial to Rhinegeist because that was one of the initial experiences we had when we came into the market. That’s one of the reasons we’re doing the community networking event Tuesday, October 18. We thought it might fit to a tee what Cincinnati is trying to do – taking a warehouse and turning it into this beautiful brewery and creating the space where people can get together and celebrate the city over a couple of beers.
There really isn’t anything better than that.
CF: What are you most excited about for the upcoming event?
JH: I think that myself and the other organizers look at ourselves as vessels for the experiences the founders are going to have. I think the most important thing is the founders walk away and say this is an incredible experience and we’re so glad that we did this and knowing the schedule and the folks we have coming. From the corporate side, companies like Facebook and Twitter and Amazon. From the investor side, Launch Capital, Renaissance Venture Capital, Greylock. And then our founders and staff coming into market.
We’re essentially bringing in 1000 people and we would love them to experience the great welcoming city that Cincinnati is and a view of entrepreneurship in a Midwestern state.
CF: Do you have any advice for how Cincinnati founders, entrepreneurs, startup people can participate outside of community day? How can they welcome Techstars’ founders and how they can benefit from the experience as a whole?
JH: Number one thing I would do is follow Twitter and watch the people referencing FounderCon and don’t be shy to reach out to them and try to set up a coffee or a meeting over a drink. Connect with folks while they’re here, proximity is a beautiful thing, you have these great people coming in from all over the world. Leverage them as much as possible. For Techstars our ethos is give first and we look forward to giving to the Cincinnati region to match the way they’ve given to us.
At the end of the conference, if all feel like they’ve been engaged and involved, especially the folks that are attached to entrepreneurial efforts, then I feel all of us will have done our job. Ultimately that will be the most rewarding aspect of everything that we’re doing here.