Millennials Win Seed Funding for Projects at M2020 Spark Tank

July 27th, 2012

For Immediate Release:
July 27, 2012

Millennials Win Seed Funding for Projects at M2020 Spark Tank

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - What do Millennials and entrepreneurs have in common? Attendees at M2020 Spark Tank found out today. The live Twitter feed at the event was constantly refreshing as ideas sparked, the contagious energy in the room spreading as fast as the Millennials could talk--and type.

Over 100 Millennials (roughly ages 15-25) gathered for this one-day event at the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. The goal? To explore and pitch ideas on how to spark change in Northeast Indiana. Ideas ranged from Millennial mixer events to kayak and bike sharing programs; and two lucky groups of Millennials were the winners of $500 in seed funding 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 of the day 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 Millennials 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 publically 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.

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

Hoover, at the age of 30, created pioneering book superstore BOOKSTOP, which helped change the nature of book shopping in America. The company was sold to Barnes & Noble for $41.5 million cash when it was seven years old, and became a cornerstone for their industry-dominating superstore chain. After selling the company, he 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. Like BOOKSTOP, Hoover's has changed the way we do things and today employs over 300 people.

"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 25 year old 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. Millennial 2020 is giving Millennials an active voice and role in Vision 2020 and directly aligning with Vision 2020's mission for Northeast Indiana of developing, attracting, and retaining talent. M2020 Spark Tank is being sponsored in part by the University of Saint Francis.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on Monday, July 30, on the Millennial 2020 website.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership was formed in 2006 to help build a globally competitive economy in Northeast Indiana. It is a public-private partnership focused on generating business leads and building regional capacity through product development and effective regional collaboration. In 2010, the Partnership launched Vision 2020 to bring the region together around five key areas (the five pillars) for economic growth: 21st Century Talent, Competitive Business Climate, Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure and Quality of Life. Through its combined efforts in business development and capacity building, the Partnership supports its 10 member counties: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley.


Courtney Tritch
Marketing Director
Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership

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