Millennials share ideas & win $500

July 27th, 2012

News Coverage:

Millennials share ideas & win $500

Updated: Friday, 27 Jul 2012, 9:54 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 27 Jul 2012, 9:54 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  Over 100 Millennials took part in an event Friday that was designed to spark conversations on how to improve northeast Indiana.

The M2020 Spark Tank invited Millennials, or people ages 15-25, to explore and pitch ideas that would help create change in our region.

At the event, held at the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne, two groups won $500 in seed money to help bring their ideas to fruition.

Justin Sheehan, 19, and his group won for their project, tentatively called Business Connect. Their idea is to create a social network for start up businesses to help them network, share resources and advice."I didnt know what to expect from today's event. I just came with an idea and an open mind," said Sheehan. "I just want to help businesses grow."

The second winner was a project that resulted from four groups merging their ideas together. The group of 13 Millennials called their project Happening NOW Fort Wayne. This idea would involve a website geared specifically toward Millennials where they could find out where to go and what to do in Fort Wayne based on a mapping function to show what is near their current location.

Due to the number of excellent projects, the judges' panel decided to also recognize a third group whose project they wanted to publicly encourage even though additional prize funding was not available. This honorable mention went to the Unity Outreach project, which is focused on events and opportunities for artists to gain recognition in the region to encourage them to stay in Northeast Indiana instead of taking their talent elsewhere.

The keynote speaker was Indiana native Gary Hoover, who shared his experience in becoming an entrepreneur at an early age. "Entrepreneurship isn't about making money," he told the crowd. "It's about passion, curiosity and service to others."

Hoover created pioneering book superstore Bookstop, which helped change the nature of book shopping in America. Seven years later he sold it to Barnes & Noble for $41.5 million. After that, Hoover began the company that became Hoover's, the world's largest Internet-based provider of information about enterprises. covers over 40,000 companies around the world.

"Gary was an inspiration as were all of the Millennials who showed up to share their creativity and talent with the group," said Lauren Zuber, the emcee of the event. "We're excited to track and support the innovative ideas that developed at the event. We don't want these sparks to die out-we want them to become full-fledged flames, sparking change across the region. Today won't be the last time you hear about these ideas. We plan to help sustain them over time and track their progress on our website."

M2020 Spark Tank is an event through the Millennial 2020 program. Millennial 2020 is an extension of Vision 2020, a regional initiative stewarded by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, working to transform Northeast Indiana through the five pillars of 21st Century Talent, Competitive Business Climate, Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure, and Quality of Life.