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Reflections on The Combine conference in Bloomington

Micah Baldwin of Graphic.ly on stage at The Combine speaking about failure. Photo by Dusty Davidson.

As we previously mentioned, this past weekend Jeff and I traveled to Bloomington, Indiana to the first-ever Combine conference. Hosted by our friends at SproutBox, The Combine sought to “bring together movers and shakers in creativity, community, culture, capital and code from all over the country, and provide a unique opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by some of the nation’s top experts in internet marketing, product development, revenue generation, content creation and entrepreneurship.” (From thecombine.org/about)

To be honest, I was most excited about the idea of being at a conference that wasn’t my own. Outside of SXSW, I don’t travel to many conferences, and Big Omaha is more or less a blur to me. So it was very appealing to me to be heading somewhere where I had zero responsibilities, and could just sit back, enjoy, and soak it all in.

There were a number of standout speakers, including Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like and Micah Baldwin of Graphic.ly, both of whom held the audience captive with a great message, quality storytelling, and a good dose of humor. In the coming days, we expect other bloggers to recap this content, and as they do, we’ll update this post with a few of those links. 

For me however, as with many conferences and events, the real value of the event lies in the connections and relationships you make. In large part, throwing conferences like Big Omaha and The Combine is as much about getting the right attendees in the room as it is about getting the right speakers. To this end, The Combine excelled, as we met lots of great people: locals, speakers, and people traveling in from other parts of the country.

In meeting and talking to people, one thing was abundantly clear: people were passionate about Indiana, and were excited to make their mark on the startup culture there. We talk a lot about this in our region, but it’s incredibly interesting to see similar trends occurring just a few hundred miles away. Like Omaha and the rest of the Silicon Prairie, Indiana has great talent, great companies, and great resources – all things necessary to sprout a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Congrats to Mike Trotzke, Brad Wisler and the entire Combine team for taking a risk and putting on a great first-time event. We made some new friends, heard some memorable speakers, and genuinely enjoyed a city that we hadn’t been to before. If they hold another one (and I hope they do), we’ll plan on being back in Bloomington again next year.

Above: The Combine was held at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.

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