Life is a Revolution – You Build It, Some Will Come, Some Will Complain, and Some Will Keep On Building

By: Chris Mahlmann Last Updated: April 15, 2013

Whether you are building a small business, trying to break through in your communication, starting up a new event, or building collaboration for a cause, the number of people who critique the lines or the play on the field will often outnumber the fans in the stands.

It makes you wonder sometimes why anyone would bother to build anything, start anything new, or change the status of any kind of quo.

You’ll hear, “The field is not where I wanted it to be,” or, “It should be bigger or smaller,” or “The plans were too developed when I learned of it to adjust to my needs," or "It's not concrete enough for me to build upon,” or complaints about the way or time frame something is being built is all wrong.

Heaven help us if too many, too few, or the wrong people are wanting to invest in it's construction.

Our Midwest industrial heritage, particularly in this Northwest Indiana region, celebrates building, innovation, growth, and the grit and tumble that it takes to make those things happen. But often many in the region are still succumbing to the “us vs. them”, “me vs. you”, shoot-at-anything-that-pops-its-head-up mentality that holds us back from the potential of countless new “ballparks”, big and small.

A couple of years ago, a handful of Twitter and Facebook minded people started something called the #NWITweetup as a reason (okay, an excuse) to get together with other tech or marketing and communications folks for some in-person conversation to build off of the online connection many of them had developed. Through it's first few years there have been plenty who thought it was too commercial, infrequent, often, relaxed, structured, social, and any number of other concerns, even though it is a loosely coordinated all volunteer effort that has put dozens of people, many times in many different places. To my knowledge, nobody has ever had a bad time.

What do I respect about the people involved from that first day forward? People like Nat Finn, Dave Woodson, and Steve Dalton? It’s that they stuck with it, listened to all the critics, let the worst of them roll off their back, responded to and learned from the best of them, and they ultimately built a moving ballpark.

This is a team of novices and pros that move like a traveling band of fun and gadgetry from Catch 22 to Industrial Revolution to Figure Eight Brewing, celebrating nothing other than having a good time and making a few posts and tweets about it. It sounded like a fun idea when it started and I have enjoyed all the people I've met in the various iterations of it as it has evolved, and I’m eager to see most of you all at one of the events in the future. Learn more at on the web and follow the group on Facebook and Twitter.

Just a few months back, a conversation over burgers and a beer led a similar handful of optimistically-wired people to start wondering if they could build something new, more than they wondered why nobody hasn't yet.

They believed if they could bring tech and startup business-related people together in the region, and collectively there would be ideas that could be developed that would lead to real jobs, new industries, and opportunity for our kids growing up to stay in the region. After all, it has been done in Chicago and Indy within the Midwest, and obviously it has been done with quite an impact on the East and West coasts.

Could they help the existing software, hardware, and service businesses that are doing something with technology to expand, recruit additional talent, and get some visibility that might lead to the seeds of what we have seen build businesses, start-up parks, and educational-economic development partnerships elsewhere?

We met in a town, county, and region known more for the shovel-and-hammer kind of real estate economic development and asked if potential could be seen for building things that are far more dependent on clicks and keystrokes to make an impact?

Kelly Schwedland moved from talking about it to actively doing something about it first with a LinkedIn group (NWI Tech Plus), then started setting up meetings morning, noon, and nights with whomever might have an interest.

He has listened to and learned from anyone with a reason of why that will not work, while collaborating and cajoling a growing group of people that similarly think it absolutely can be done, and want to see something come of it.

Nat Finn and Chris Bake of BakedFinn jumped into the pool early and often building out a website called Startup Front, with a social network presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Steve Dalton brought his networking and social media focus to the effort, and some city and regional leaders have given Kelly their time to help vet the ideas.

Local and state economic development people have taken calls and meetings to help advise, and the fine folks at Figure Eight were an excellent host once again last week for another event featuring a loosely connected band of tech and business participants to learn a bit about the conversations that have started, and to begin to put their two cents in to what they would like to see happen. Nick Tippuian came into town from Nibletz Media to share what he has learned from writing about and participating in startups, conferences and the evangelism that it takes to get new ideas like this off the ground.

What will the end result of all this be, other than a mental and liquid stimulant to the creative and technical minds that play along? Nobody knows, and that is part of what makes it exciting to watch and be a part of. The discussion has just started up (pun fully intended) and early signs are pretty encouraging.

So to those who build things and are the focus of this series called Life Is A Revolution: Kudos to you for laying out the field and doing all the grass roots work to build interest in the ball park. Whether it be the traveling team of the #NWITweetup, or the future league of companies that #StartUpFront aims to develop, the region and our economy is better for people that build things.

May many come, few complain, and we all enjoy some time at the game.