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Grassroots effort could kick-start tech scene in Traverse City

Jan 14, 2016

The Next Idea

Most anyone would agree that Traverse City is one of Michigan’s crown jewels. It’s a beautiful location and a great place to live, visit and retire.

But one thing Traverse City has lacked is a strong central point for the area’s tech industry.

Russell Schindler is working to make Traverse City a new nexus for technology
Credit Public Domain

Russell Schindler is a Traverse City geologist and entrepreneur. He basically got sick and tired of driving nearly four hours to Ann Arbor for tech meet-ups, so he started a new group, called TC New Tech.

Schindler just started the group this past summer, and he tells the response so far has been “tremendous.”

“My impression is that I just happened upon a big need, and just, people are lined up to present and to come to the meeting,” he says.

He says the monthly meetings usually include between 50 and 70 people from all over the tech spectrum. A lot of them, he tells us, are folks with ideas who are looking to get into the industry, while others are there specifically looking for projects to invest in.

The meetings typically feature five speakers. Each is allowed five minutes to present, followed by a five-minute question and answer session. Between speakers, Schindler says audience members are allowed to stand and make announcements.

“The meetings end up being just a little bit over an hour, so that’s one of the things that I think people like about it, is there’s a broad spectrum of different businesses and technologies that they get to get their eyes on, but they’re not long, drawn-out presentations. It’s just a quick overview and some questions,” Schindler says.

After the meetings, he tells us many of them usually head over to one of the local watering holes to continue the conversations.

"People can share ideas and they can share concepts, you know, business ideas online and over the phone, but when you get together in the same room with those people, there's some magic that happens."

“Quite frankly, that’s where the business gets done,” he says.

Schindler tells us Traverse City has a number of things going for it in terms of tech entrepreneurship.

“First of all, it’s a very desirable place to live … and it’s really not that expensive a place to live either,” he says. “And the people that are in the tech industry, they have a certain kind of lifestyle where they can just pick where they want to live, and, you know, they’re going to pick the more desirable places to live.”

In order to keep the ball rolling, Schindler tells us he’s been talking with investors about creating a tech incubator, a company that would help new and startup companies get off the ground, in Traverse City.

“Probably start out with like a co-location business, where essentially tech startups go and just rent a desk and rent a small office, and then just kind of morph into an incubator and go from there,” Schindler says.

According to Schindler, having that physical location where people can come together is a huge step toward fostering a successful and productive tech scene.

“People can share ideas and they can share concepts, you know, business ideas online and over the phone, but when you get together in the same room with those people, there’s some magic that happens,” Schindler says. “Just in the … TC New Tech meetings, the energy in the room is just tremendous, because you have a room full of entrepreneurs and people that have ideas and that want to do things, and I thrive on that kind of energy. I mean, it’s like a drug almost. You go in there and your adrenaline just gets pumping. So to have a physical space that kind of does that on a daily basis I think is important,” he says.

More information about TC New Tech can be found on its website.

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