2016 has been an incredible year for Launch League. New programming, new leadership, and continued growth on the foundation we built in 2015. I’m excited for what’s next in 2017, but first, let me summarize what our community accomplished this year.
Launch League by the numbers:
Times we got together for Techtini Tuesday
People who registered for the second //NEXTOhio which was powered by Launch League
Founders, artists, and tech professionals who attended Hack The Arts in May
Founders who got together to watch a Rubber Ducks game in June
People (including the Mayor) who donated a day of their time to help make Akron a better place at Hack N Akron in September
Startup Career Fairs we helped organize in October
Founders, support orgs, investors, and early stage employees who attended Flight the Midwest Startup Conference in December
Microcommunities were launched this year
Founders, investors, early stage employees, and support orgs. who make Launch League possible. You’re the reason we’re here and we’re incredibly thankful that you’ve shown your support for the community over the last year. We have big plans for 2017 and beyond that we can’t wait to share! Look for some new announcements in the first quarter.
I had the great honor of running into Launch League just over a year ago a local event. Rick Stockburger, co-founder and previous Executive Director, stood in front of a crowd in September 2015 and talked about the need for more founders in Akron. As soon as I joined, I saw the benefits of the networking, education, and connections to local resources that Launch League had to offer. In a matter of months I uncovered more resources than I had over the past 5 years running my own startup – I knew Launch League was something special. I joined a number of other founders and community leaders on the Board in January 2016, and in August, had the great honor of stepping into Rick’s shoes (which I quite literally could never fill, because I have very small feet). Bad jokes aside, Rick had done an amazing job working with Nick to set Launch League up for success. So what does Launch League look like? Let’s dive into programs!
Connecting Founders: Startup Dinners and Techtini Tuesdays
Startup dinners and our signature “Techitni Tuesday” networking events have been part of Launch League since its inception. Not only are these events a great way to network, but they’re also fantastic for sharing resources and forming partnerships. These events are a great way to talk through startup-challenges, establish accountability and get motivated when times are tough.
Educating Founders: Microcommunities
Another flagship program of Launch League is Microcommunities (MComms). Launch League MComms are unique because they are founder-lead meetup groups that cover a variety of startup topics. Unlike a formal training program, MComms are 100% free and focus on the tough startup issues, often highly technical or focused. Rather than a lecture, MComm meetings are often discussion-based, with audience members contributing to a group discussion. MComm topics include hardware/product discussions, front end development, marketing, operations, and more!
Connecting Founders to Local Government: Hack N Akron
On September 10th, Launch League held its inaugural Hack-N-Akron Civic Hackathon in partnership with the City of Akron and Mayor Dan Horrigan. Most people think of Hackathons as tech-focused events, but not so with Hack-N-Akron! Our goal was to utilize the talent in our founder-community to solve real problems and deliver real solutions for the City of Akron. Months of planning went into the event, and both technical and non-technical problems were tackled (open-data and neighborhood branding). Registration was maxed-out within 24 hours; the response from the community and support from the City of Akron is what made this event a huge success. Two additional Hackathons are planned for 2017…but that’s for another blog post!
Connecting Founders to Talent: Startup Career Fair at the University of Akron
2016 marked another “first” for Launch League with our inaugural Startup Career Fair at the University of Akron. In response to feedback from our community and students, Launch League initiated a conversation with the co-op office at the University of Akron. The goal of this event is to connect students to startups for internships, co-ops, and permanent placements to address issues of talent retention and talent sourcing in the region. Other cities such as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have established models on how to run startup career-fairs, so we decided it was Akron’s turn! In partnership with the University of Akron Career Services Center, this event drew over 15 startups Akron-based startups and 50 students. The event was promoted by our good friends at Jumpstart, the Akron Global Business Accelerator, and the University of Akron Research Foundation, and we look forward to growing and expanding next year.
Connecting Founders to Regional Resources: Flight – The Midwest Startup Conference
If you would have told me a year ago that I would be part of a team that launched the first-ever regional startup conference that attracted over 200 participants, 24 sponsors, 40 exhibitors, 50 promotional partners, and 35 speakers (with a 100% net promoter score) I might have thought you were crazy. Nonetheless, this summary doesn’t even do a justice to the event. The day-of, I realized that it wasn’t Launch League that was running the event – it was the people. Everybody wanted to be involved: startup founders, investors, support organizations, service providers and students “flocked” to the John A Knight Center on December 2nd. The energy at the venue was described as something that hasn’t been seen at events in the region. Needless to say, Flight will continue to be a signature event for Launch League in the future, with the goal to continue to connect founders to regional resources so we can see an increase in founders, talent, and startups in our region.
As I reflect on 2016 and look forward to 2017 and years to come, I’m thankful for great people that share our vision for making Akron the place build a startup. Whether you are a Launch League founder, startup supporter, investor, or service-provider, we appreciate your enthusiasm for building a strong startup ecosystem and look forward to continuing our mission in 2017!