Tech Meetings Generate Ideas, Capital

Think you could compress an entire business idea into a five-minute presentation, then field questions for another five minutes? Part Ted Talk, part Shark Tank, TCNew Tech meetups require just that.

It is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a model that apparently works for many local entrepreneurs. There is no shortage of applicants. In fact, TCNew Tech events, held the first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m., have expanded over the past two years – so much so they are now held at the City Opera House in downtown Traverse City (formerly they were held across the street at ECCO event space).

The hurry-up format means presenters –mostly entrepreneurs who are in need of investors, brand awareness, design support or greater brand awareness – have to show the big picture and not get bogged down in details.

Think of it as an elevator pitch in a very tall building.

It’s a sympathetic audience, but the 200 or so people attending want presenters to cut to the chase: What is the product or service? Why should we care? What are its advantages? What do you need from us? The most successful presenters address those underlying questions head-on.

The topics vary a great deal.

First up at the Feb. 7 meeting was Jason Myers of, who is looking for an investor or investors with “around $1 million” to help him produce and market his new parental control app, which blocks certain kinds of websites and offers a “traffic” report of online activity.

But not everyone is on the hunt for investors.

Presenters Joey DiFranco and Tony Higham of Mantle Services ( aren’t quite ready to put their sales lead-evaluation software on the market. Right now, they are testing and fine-tuning everything at their day jobs at TentCraft.

Preliminary results, though, are promising. The software could be adapted for many types of businesses.

“By putting it out there we’re essentially crowd-sourcing ideas on how this tech could be used,” DiFranco said.

The value is in saving sales departments’ time in research and identifying the most promising potential clients. Lead evaluation, though, is just one of the goals.

“It’s not an off-the-shelf concept,” DiFranco explained. “It needs to be engineered based on your problem and the desired solution.”

He said that with some adaptation, the software could be used to improve manufacturing efficiency, help marketing teams budget wisely, route leads and anticipated financial pitfalls and high points.

Wanted: Design Help

Possibly the most entertaining presentation of the February meeting was from brothers Dakota Porter, 21, and Garret Porter, 18. Their company, ActionGlow (, makes portable LED light sets that attach to sports equipment. Their products are already on the market. What they need now is design help as they add new features to their product line. The young entrepreneurs’ optimism and market knowledge earned them a big ovation.

Other presenters…

Barbara Jordan from the Center for Coaching and Leadership Development (, spoke of the importance of emotional IQ, which she termed one of the biggest determiners of business success. And some presenters – such as Jordan Lindberg of eFullfillment, a giant distributing facility in Traverse City – simply explained what their already well-established companies do.

Coming Soon: Incubator

In addition to holding monthly meetups, TCNew Tech plans to open an incubator space in the next few months. The exact spot for the office and meeting venue has not been set. In fact, the center doesn’t even have a name yet.

“But we’re close to settling on a location, and we hope to be up and running by April or May,” said Russ Schindler, board president. “The goal is to facilitate minds coming together to discuss technology.”

This can include software development, drones, 3D printing, lasers and just about any undertaking that is tech-based, said Schindler.

Some of the features anticipated at the center are:

  • Leased office space for small (one- to two-person) startups
  • A professional staffer to organize programming
  • Frequent seminars on human resources, legal responsibilities, data protection, basic accounting and other topics associated with starting a business
  • Meeting space for tech clubs
  • Community programs that help kids and adults embrace technology
  • A receptionist

About TCNew Tech:

The non-profit organization has been on the Traverse City scene for about two years. For more information, visit or email Russell Schindler at or Lisa Baker at