18 Ideas From Techonomy Detroit

By Amanda Lewan on September 18th, 2013 / Comments

Yesterday was the big Techonomy Detroit conference, bringing names like Jack Dorsey, Dan Gilbert, Governor Rick Snyder and more to Wayne State University in Detroit.

The goal of the conference was to discuss how technology can impact job creation and the future of cities, and it covered different angles including local makers, manufacturing, and disrupting education with technology.

We’ve created a list of some ideas and points that came up in the panels. The following are 18 ideas from this year’s Techonomy Detroit.

1. Tech is a tool and a destination, fueled by creative thinking. The first panel on education brought up this point over and over. Sister Code founder Marlin Page pointed out that while we teach tech skills, we also need to teach free thinking and creativity in order to build better businesses with technology. This means a healthy dose of humanities and the sciences.

2. CEOs should be catalysts for radical change. Corporate leadership shouldn’t just be open to change, they should also be the catalyst for it. A question came out of this: Can you email your CEO and know your message will be heard?  The leadership should listen to their people and allow room for change inside corporations.

3. Foster entrepreneurship as a habit in young students. This idea came from an attendee in the crowd who said that The Henry Ford was working on a program for elementary students to foster entrepreneurial thinking at an early age. Do you think this is important?

4. All cities need to focus on smart growth. Patrick Finn of McKinsey & Company shared with us lessons from around the globe on what makes great cities. Smart growth means to focus on an area the city has an advantage in. The following two points are also from his talk.

5.  Make do with less when you need to. Patrick said this was another characteristic of great cities, the ability to make less when they need to.

6. Get support for change. Great cities know how to get support for the change they want to get done. Patrick used an example with cities that were able to work with federal government to create policies that supported large changes.

7. Demolishing blight in Detroit as a stepping stone. Dan Gilbert Founder of Quicken Loans and DVP, spoke on a panel focused on Detroit. Dan said that the number one stepping stone right now for Detroit to grow is to demolish blight in the neighborhoods. He also voiced a strong opinion for bankruptcy to be the “beginning of the end” for Detroit’s trouble.

8. Get behind downtown, but don’t forget the neighborhoods. Bruce Katz Director of the Brookings Institute spoke on the same panel as Dan Gilbert and said his number one suggestion for growing Detroit as a city is to support the momentum downtown and in midtown. However, Rick Snyder later added the importance of not forgetting the neighborhoods.

9. Read history and science for inspiration, if you want to be a leader. Rick Snyder said on his panel that he reads history to understand trends and human nature, science for futuristic ideas, and he also claims to read the Detroit Future City Plan, a document created by the community to analyze Detroit’s unique situation and envision a new future. He also talked about his motto as the following: Relentless Positive Action. A motto that means Gov. Snyder doesn’t blame anyone or take credit. He is only focused on positive problem solving.

10. Allow for outside investment to grow cities. Rick Snyder talked about his trips to China and the importance of opening up to outside and even global investment. What could that do for your city?

11. Cross-sector collaboration is key for job creation. On the jobs panel that followed, the resounding message was to allow for the educational sector and the private sector to collaborate for job creation. Companies should aim for partnerships with higher education to get the talent they need.

12. To encourage entrepreneurship, give them a pathway to start. This came from Andrew Yang of Venture For America. The Venture for America program places top talent into urban areas to gain startup experience. Andrew Yang said Detroit has been a top choice on the list the past two years.

13. Have entrepreneurs leading the startup community. We’ve talked about the importance of entrepreneurs leading the startup community in Michigan before, and it was great to hear this point again. Andrew Yang said that having leaders like Dan Gilbert and Josh Linkner fueling startups in Detroit is a competitive advantage for the city.

14. Entrepreneurship and diversity of business can fuel the economy. This came from Josh Linkner Founder of ePrize and DVP. This is a great point as it’s often mentioned that Detroit was once a “Silicon Valley” 100 years ago with the birth of the auto industry and mass production. Diversity is especially important for Detroit.

15. Be inclusive with businesses in your city. Another point from Josh Linkner was to welcome outsiders. If a business moves to Detroit and creates 1,000 jobs, that’s 1,000 for the city. Cities also shouldn’t be competing to be startup hubs. The more entrepreneurs in America the more the U.S. can compete on a global scale.

16. Find ways to provide free or affordable business services. This probably already happens in most cities, but did you know some universities provide free legal services for small businesses? Wayne State University is one of these along with MSU and U of M.

17. Tech can empower local makers on a global scale. This came across in the maker panel. With stores like Etsy and Shapeways, we can produce local, crafted goods and sell them to a global market. This empowers the business owner. What other ways can tech bring the local to a global scale?

18. Make the desirable affordable. Another point that came across from the maker panel. Local, hand-made goods are desirable and platforms that allow users to easily sell and send items can make desirable items affordable. It’s also an idea to keep in mind for any business.

Can you apply these ideas to your startup or city? What do you think?

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.