Technologicology Special Report: IgnitePhilly, Tonight!

Ignite:Philly is existential proof that there are innovative minds in Philadelphia and it happens tonight at 6PM at Johnny Brenda’s and is quite ready to explode. I’d say that Ignite:Philly is our little taste of the West Coast/New York collaborative/creative movement, but that would be a disservice to the hard-working creative community we have here in Philadelphia. Tonight’s speakers are basically the Technologicology bucket list: 20 peeps whom are involved with the some of the most inspiring projects this city has seen.

Just a taste:
Brittany Bonnette of Philly Bike Share (whom surely chuckled a little at New York yesterday), Pete Tredish of Prometheus Radio Project (whom helped launch that crazy, piratical West Philly radio station WPEB last month), Brian Lang of The Food Trust (who is totally ruining our kindergarten’s tater-tot/chocolate milk lunch special), Alex Hillman of Independents Hall (whom submits coworking definitions to Merriam-Webster for fun), and Don Miller of No Carrier (retro NES A/V hacker, who likes Ballon Fight a little too much). And 15 others I wish I had room for.

If you’ve ever needed an indication of the diverse, progressive things Philly has going on, this is it. Not to mention it’s free and there’s beer. I had a chance to speak briefly with organizers Vanja Buvac of The Hacktory and Geoff DiMasi of P’unk Avenue this morning to ask them what kind of “collaborating” will be happening when 200 geeks get drunk at the same time. After the jump, read the pow wow.

What is IgnitePhilly? Cept, I’m going to preface it in the same way you guys are doing you’re thing: I’m going to give you one slide and 15 seconds to tell us what it’s all about.

Vanja Buvac: IgnitePhilly is an event bringing 20 speakers together. Each speaker has 5 minutes and 20 slides to talk about their topic. We selected speakers who are doing exciting things in Philadelphia be it entrepreneurs, social activists, artists, musicians or generally interesting people that are going to ignite the creative class of Philadelphia.

Geoff DiMasi: The big impetus was to get people together and get people excited about what’s happening in Philadelphia. I’m a big fan of Philadelphia, and I want people to feel good about the cool things happening. I run into a lot of people that don’t know what’s going on with the creative space, the exciting tech stuff, the cool cultural things. There’s so much cool stuff.

The event has been getting a lot of press and a lot of people are interested in it. Was that interest there a year ago when you started doing all this collaboration? Do you think Philly’s collaborative creative scene is blowing up right now?

Vanja Buvac: We realize there’s a lot of small civic, social groups that are addressing a niche need of anywhere from 100 to a few hundred people that have a very core following. We started toying with the idea of creating a forum to bring all these smaller groups together so they can more effectively collaborate. Instead of having one mega- creative economy organization thats encompassing everything creative in Philadelphia, it’s better to have these small organizations that have devoted followings, and then just have a forum to share ideas, coordinate and collaborate. IgnitePhilly is the first collaboration of this sort and its looking like its going to be a huge success.

I think this event characterizes the progress that the Philly tech community has made. Many projects are getting a ton of public attention.

Geoff DiMasi: Yeah, I feel like this is sort of a coming-out in some ways for some cool stuff that’s been bubbling for the last year or so. Going back a year ago, I wasn’t as excited as I am now. In a year, there’s lots of energy and a lot more people collaborating, or at least aware of what’s going on with each other. Maybe it’s a smaller community right now but the attention that IgnitePhilly is getting is phenomenal.

What’s it mean for the creative community to be in one place at one time?

Vanja Buvac: Its really about igniting Philadelphia. We want to bring in people that are on various sides of this thing from artists to engineers to entrepreneurs. In a venue like Johnny Brenda’s, you get a few beers in people and you get a good conversation going. That’s really how all these smaller groups started, by going to these kinds of events and cross-pollinating the various niche groups in Philadelphia. I think it’s really important to get people talking to each other, which is often the first obstacle.

Geoff DiMasi: I just think that amazing things are going to come out of it. I know that sounds trite, but people are going to be able to build off of the awareness and the fact that its local. There’s going to be that connection made tonight that “I know who you are and you know who I am.” We’re really hoping people talk to each other and connect in the audience. I’m sure there’s going to be just-as-interesting if not way-more-interesting people in the audience as on the stage tonight. It’s an opportunity to lay the groundwork for future collaborations.

How many beers does it take to bring down the entire tech community?

Vanja Buvac: [laughs] We’re not heavy drinkers. My personal limit is two beers. Some of my social inhibitions go down, but after that I start getting incoherent. Let’s put it this way—two 90-Minute Ales, that’s higher alcohol content.

Geoff DiMasi: I usually drink five or six; I can drink most people under the table.

If you both pass that threshold, maybe you’ll come up with some really awesome ideas. And Geoff—let’s keep things on track tonight, mmmkay? Thanks guys.

IgnitePhilly, TONIGHT, Johnny Brenda’s, Doors at 6PM, Talks at 7PM, FREE.

Brian James Kirk is a writer and adventurer living in Philadelphia. By adventuring, he means occasionally to friends’ homes for games of Balderdash. His technology column runs every Tuesday.