June 7, 2012 was a big day in our little part of the world. Ogden, Utah was announced as the recipient of a $1,000,000 grant from the EDA. You can read a bit about it here and here. In conjunction with other initial monies from the City of Ogden and Weber State University, this new project (called Startup Ogden) will begin with over $1,500,000 of seed funding. Let me lay out what we plan to do with this initial money, what we hope to accomplish both short and long term, and also what you can expect to see happen as we try hard to essentially build a startup community from scratch.
Startup Ogden is a partnership between local entrepreneurs, new technology startups from abroad, Weber State University and Ogden City. All of these key stakeholders play an important role. The monies that will kick things off will be used to purchase, prepare and operate a building in downtown Ogden. The location of the building is 2314 Washington Boulevard (next to Zions bank and across the street from The Junction). The entire building is approximately 18,000 square feet (6,000 per floor).
The planned use of each floor is as follows:
Floor One: WSU Bookstore — Future announcements will be made regarding details here, but the entire first floor will be a really hip, fun and open design that will sell products, services, WSU event tickets, WSU memorabilia and more. This will be a big draw for the area due to the highly popular technology inventory that will be available. It will also provide an easy way for students, alumni and supporters of Weber State to easily interact with the University while shopping, eating and enjoying downtown Ogden.
Floor Two: Continuing Education and Co-Working Space — Want to take a class about a new programming language or the latest tools for building an online business? For a modest fee, industry professionals that are currently experts in their field will offer these types of courses. Topics like entry level versions of Ruby on Rails, Python, Django, Facebook API, social media marketing, SEO and more will all be available regularly and affordably. In addition to these classes, there will be some local technology startups that are moving into the space permanently amongst a really nice co-working area. The entire floor will be wide open (with the exception of some glass walled conference rooms). Forty foot ceilings, huge windows, 100 year old brick walls and beautiful wood floors. Add to that wicked fast Internet, music, comfortable furniture, games and more and you’ll have your Silicon Valley style technology startup feel. 24/7 secured access will make this a really fun place to be at night as well. Things will be buzzing on this floor from day one.
Floor Three: Co-Working Space and Mobile App Startups — This floor will be basically a copy of the second floor in look and feel, with the exception of classes not being taught on this floor. If I have my way, there will be a fire pole connecting the 2nd and 3rd floor. Technology startups and co-working members will roam freely throughout. Like the second floor, secure 24/7 access will be available. The entire floor will be wide open. Once per calendar year we will be using some of the initial and ongoing monies to fund some mobile app startups. Much more detail will be available on this as we draw nearer to our Fall 2012 opening, but here are a few tidbits in the meantime. The accelerator/incubator (I’m not a big fan of either descriptor) will host selected startups from around the USA to live/work in Ogden for a period of 3-4 months starting in January. Ogden has world class outdoor activities and we want to leverage those by enticing talented mobile entrepreneurs to live and work in Ogden during these prime winter months. They’ll receive funding, mentorship via Skype from world renowned topic experts (think Facebook designers and the like), a season pass to SnowBasin, heavily discounted living space and, most importantly, a thriving environment to stimulate ideas and peer oriented performance. Perhaps the most unique part is that they’ll get all of this and more without Startup Ogden taking an equity stake in their business. Like I said, more details to come!
So we will have this great building. It will be full from day one. Retail, food, WSU, classes, entrepreneurs, startups, mobile apps and events will be cranking right out of the gates. The rents from floor one and part of floor two will insure the long term viability of funding and supporting mobile startups and events. This operation will use EDA grant money and initial money from Ogden City, but after that, THE MARKET and THE COMMUNITY will be what makes this viable and sustainable. I’m supportive of getting some grant and other funds to kick this off, but I really wanted the community to be the ones to support the ongoing direction of Startup Ogden. I believe if a community wants more startups, wants more technology and wants the benefits associated with all of the above — then they should part with their time and money to do so. Startup Ogden is designed to operate this way and I’m really excited to see it thrive.
Since the first building will be full, where will other entrepreneurs and startups locate? Why nearby of course! The serendipitous nature of interacting with a growing community of talented tech entrepreneurs will undoubtedly attract more. The only way a community will be built is because people want to be there. They choose to be there. They find peers and fun there. The options for employees, locations, events (like Startup Weekend!) and support will all be there. The community will slowly grow. More companies will start. More students will stay. More startups will begin. How will we know when and if all if this is happening?
I suppose only time will tell.