SCN Fall Summit 2022: Where Y’all Means All
Startup Champions Network (SCN) made its way down to Funky Town for its 2022 Fall Summit and its host city was on full display.
Hosted by the University of North Texas Health Science Center HSC Next team - a startup and small business incubator in Fort Worth that provides resources for innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs to take their ideas to the next level - this year’s conference welcomes attendees who made their way from all over the world to engage with their fellow ecosystem builders.
This year’s summit took place in the Fort Worth Stockyards, which was the first point of commerce in the now-sprawling city. Every day, twice a day, the famous longhorn cattle drive takes place on Exchange Ave. as a nod to the city’s roots. But it’s quite clear today that Fort Worth is so much more than “Cow Town” (another of its myriad nicknames). It is home to a diverse set of leaders, innovators, educators, and creatives that have found their niche in the city.
And for brief time in Fall 2022, it was also home to ecosystem builders from around the world.
It's hard to describe the buzz in the air that results from ~100 ecosystem builders gathering in a single place to connect, learn, and grow - and it will be impossible to capture everyone's unique Summit experience. But regardless, it was impossible to spend time in Fort Worth and not get re-energized by the innovation happening and movements manifesting across the city.
Before we dive into the full ReCap, if you’re not yet familiar with the incredible organization known as SCN, you might have a fair question ...
What is Exactly is SCN?
In case you’re wondering “WTF is SCN?”, Startup Champions Network (SCN) is a group of ecosystem builders from across the country who support entrepreneurial ecosystem builders by providing them with the tools, resources, knowledge and support systems they need to build thriving and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems in their own community.
One of SCN’s primary activities is a bi-annual Summit put on by ecosystem builders, for ecosystem builders.
According to their own words, SCN Summits are meant to accomplish three primary goals:
- Help Ecosystem Builders connect with key peers and resources
- Improve Ecosystem Builders' knowledge and best practices
- Help Ecosystem Builders develop mission-critical skills
Every SCN Summit has a series of threads that weave the conference together, and this year was no different.
The theme of this year’s Summit was Making a Movement, which led to content focused on actionable steps to start small movements for increased entrepreneurial activity in communities around the country with a goal to “kickstart an entrepreneurial renaissance in the U.S.” In order to fulfill this year’s theme, SCN hosted sessions around the themes of Ecosystem Metric Tracking, Ecosystem Storytelling, Breaking Down Barriers, and then a tour of Fort Worth’s innovation ecosystem.
Given how much there was to see and do in Fort Worth, each attendee at SCN probably got something a little different out of the conference. That being said - no matter who you were - I’m willing to bet you left inspired to make a movement of your own.
Topophilia: A Love of Place
One of the running themes of this SCN summit was a Greek word that might not have been familiar to attendees beforehand (speaking for myself at least). While quite literally translating to “love of place”, this word tends to mean “a strong sense of place, which often becomes mixed with the sense of cultural identity among certain people and a love of certain aspects of such a place.”
Marco Johnson - one of our wonderful Summit hosts from HSC Next - who brought up the concept as a part of an ongoing attempt to measure “love of place”.
One of the great things about each SCN Summit is how it highlights the local ecosystem in which it takes place which can lead to that sense of topophilia.
We had the opportunity to choose between an Innovation Tour at the Mobility Innovation Zone or an Arts & Sciences Tour at the HSC Campus & Kimbell Art Museum. I attended the latter in order to get an idea of how both “left brain” and “right brain” minded folks both developed a love of place in Fort Worth.
The UNT HSC is one of the U.S.’s top academic medical centers - despite being among the smallest - and our tour gave a great example of why. We had the opportunity to explore a relatively new building that is home to a cutting-edge “Regional Simulation Center” and hear from two distinct panels that call Fort Worth home.
The first was comprised of two scientific entrepreneurs who call HSC Next’s lab space home. Robert England - CEO of Memsel Inc. - was adamant that without HSC Next’s early stage support, it would be an incredible challenge to get off the ground. When asked how much the lab space would’ve cost to build out on their own dime, England chuckled and offered up “millions” as an answer. HSC Next takes equity in the companies that utilize its space and resources, but doesn’t charge any up front rent for the otherwise-costly lab space. This creates a level of long-term alignment in success as opposed to a renter/rentee relationship.
The other panel consisted of members of the Fort Worth entrepreneurial arts scene, including Asa Aziz, Dhananjaya (DJ) Perera, and George Apodaca. Each of the panelists brought a multi-hyphenate perspective to the panel - Asa being a DJ/respiratory therapist, DJ being a classically trained painter/professor, and George being a videographer/co-working space owner. Together they shared the ups and downs of making your way as in the creative field, with a focus on intersectionality of culture and art form. It’s no surprise that a city as large and diverse as Fort Worth has developed into a top-notch arts scene, with those who call it home (such as Leon Bridges) never forgetting where they come from.
Making a Movement: The 1MC Story
Another one of our summit hosts - Cameron Cushman - has quite an extensive history with entrepreneurial ecosystem building. In fact, he was doing this work at the Kauffman Foundation before this field even had a proper name.
Alongside Nate Olson - another 1MC Co-Founder who really spearheaded the concept’s regional expansion - and Darlisa Diltz - who started 1 MC Cup chapter in local NE Tarrant County - the panel told the origin story of the now ubiquitous networking event on its 10 year anniversary.
And it started with a question.
“How do you help people if you don’t know what they’re building or even what their names are?”
Cameron and Nate set out to lay the groundwork for a Kansas City networking event that provided a safe space for entrepreneurs to share their ideas, challenges, and wins with one another without fear of being pitched hardcore by a service provider. By the end, you were guaranteed to learn at least a few more names of your fellow entrepreneurs.
So how did they keep it from being human-centered and less transactional?
Part of it was the 9 am Wednesday timing. Those who had to work typical 9-5 jobs couldn’t usually take off to attend so the crowd tended to be more entrepreneurial by nature. As Nate noted, “The last thing you want to happen at a networking event is be pitched by an insurance salesman at 9 am”.
Another aspect was the consistency. Week in, week out - 1MC organizers made sure to have an event ready to go for whoever wanted to attend. Maybe there would be 12 people. Maybe there would be 120. No matter what, entrepreneurs knowing they had a place they could go to meet up with their community each week kept the momentum building.
A final key to 1MC’s smashing success over the last decade? Community involvement. The 1MC team realized early on that getting the word out about the program (and expanding it) couldn’t be done in a top-down manner. They relied on local entrepreneurs - first in Kansas City, and later throughout Iowa, the rest of the Midwest, and then the country - to be the driving force. That’s why 1MC events were able to develop their own distinct personality that reflected the region and organizers behind them.
Are you interested in either attending a 1MC event or starting your own chapter?
Map What Matters Challenge
At the last Summit in Raleigh, EcoMap debuted what we deemed the Map What Matters challenge. This challenge is an opportunity to try your hand at mapping an ecosystem that matters the most to you using a version of the paradigm EcoMap has developed mapping dozens of ecosystems.
The goal for this challenge is two-fold:
- To provide a to think critically about the most impactful resources in your ecosystem and how they might be categorized
- To show you just how difficult this work can be to do on your own 😉
Last year we had 3 participants enter the challenge and all walk out with EcoMaps - including our summit host HSC NEXT! (view the platform)
This year we have slightly modified the challenge but are happy to be back with Round 2 of Map What Matters!
So … what exactly do you have to do?
You will use an abridged version of EcoMap’s paradigm (Click here for the challenge template) to map out at least 20 resources and their associated support organizations within your community. Included in the template are 5 examples of what it may look like filled out from your end, using the Fort Worth creative entrepreneurship ecosystem.
We estimate this will take roughly 30 mins - 1 hour to complete, depending on your attention span and intrinsic knowledge of the ecosystem you support. You will likely have to do a little Googling!
And … what exactly do I get for doing this challenge?
You mean other than the satisfaction of having a better understanding of the critical resources available to your ecosystem?
We are offering a waived implementation fee for an EcoMap Basic platform to anyone who completes this challenge by December 31st, 2022. So if you’ve been eyeing an EcoMap as a way to support your ecosystem’s stakeholders, this could be the opportunity you’ve been looking for! But remember - you must be a SCN Member or have attended the SCN Fall 22 Summit in order to participate.
Rapid Fire Shoutouts
As I wrap up this ReCap as concisely as possible (who wants to read a novel anyway?), I would be remiss to not give some rapid fire shoutouts to those who contributed to my own experiences in this conference.
(This list is in no particular order and please don’t hate me if I left your contribution out!)
- Cameron Cushman, Marco Johnson, Kendel Rogers, and Amber Yourman for being absolutely incredible Fort Worth hosts
- Mark Lawrence for taking on his new role of SCN Board Chair - the future of SCN is in fantastic hands!
- Ashley Ray for being a marketing superstar (and providing most of the photos included in this post)!
- Tom Chapman for stepping in to lead an incredible impromptu session on ecosystem metrics
- Shervonne Cherry for helping to bring the Spark Coworking magic to Arlington, TX
- Trey Bowles for sharing his Techstars journey and how it is helping Fort Worth plant its flag as the premiere city for Physical Health entrepreneurs
- All of our customers who were in attendance, including:
- Paolo Gregory of BLK BTR FLY
- Ben Idge of Forge North
- Morgan Allen of Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC)
- Ryan Hall and Nick Koger of Shenandoah Community Capital Fund (SCCF)
- Jason Griess of InnovatePGH
- Robert Grant and the whole SparkMacon delegation that showed out at least 8 strong!
- Sierra Hall of SparkMacon who won the SCN Influencer Award
- The Mariachi band at Joe T. García’s for an incredible performance on the first night
- Hezekiah "Ky" Holland and Samantha Hernandez for being SCN Summit Buddies
- The entire Baltimore delegation who came out strong to represent Charm City
- And of course my colleagues Pava LaPere and Eddie Micklovic for representing Team EcoMap at the conference
Where is SCN Headed Next?
SCN has been taking its show on the road for almost a decade at this point, and towards the end of our Fort Worth Summit the next TWO locations for SCN were announced.
In Spring ‘23, SCN Goes to Washington (D.C.) and in Fall ‘23 SCN heads to the Valley of the Sun in Phoenix, AZ!
Keep an eye out for dates and an official announcement soon. And make sure to sign up for SCN Membership to keep the community going even outside of Summit season.
Take care and see you then,