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Techonomy comes to Detroit

David Kirkpatrick, co-founder of Techonomy. PHOTO COURTESY OF TECHONOMY

Staff report

“The time is now to apply technology, innovation and entrepreneurship to address our urgent national problems,” wrote David Kirkpatick about why he and his partners decided to host Techonomy last week in Detroit.

Technology, business and community leaders including Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey converged on Wayne State’s campus Sept. 12 for a conference that considered a range of topics from “Entrepreneurship and American Relevance” to “21st Century Skills: What Do We Need? How Do We Get There?”

Techonomy founders, David Kirkpatrick and Simone Ross, say technological progress offers answers for cities such as Detroit and that was the message from many of the conference speakers.

“It’s a new day,” said Mark Hatch of Techshop who believes the tools are accessible for individuals and entrepreneurs to increasingly work outside of existing systems. Hatch talked about the way existing systems such as banks and traditional retail structures keep people from becoming entrepreneurs and how technology is busting the old barriers of entry to a marketplace.

Hatch sat on the “The DIY Economy: The Democratization of Finance, Design, Manufacturing, and Distribution” panel.

David ten Have of Ponoko sat on the same panel and said all of the old systems including the “educational” system also keep people out of business because they encourage people to believe “it’s too hard to do…You don’t need an MBA anymore. The tools are there to let you route around the system.”

Many presenters and attendees alike talked about the underutilized talent in cities such as Detroit and the way in which technological tools could help revitalize communities.

Danae Ringelmann, founder of Indiegogo, struck up a conversation with a cab driver who said he had a business idea. She encouraged him to visit her site, a crowdfunding platform, that helps bring ideas to reality. Indiegogo sends millions of dollars to artists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists every week. The idea is that many people can put in small amounts of money that end up funding winning ideas. She believes the “democratization” of technology will create a “rising middle class of entrepreneurs” and talked about the many people who had been funded via Indiegogo.

“Ideas have been repressed. There are new ways to design, market and bring products to market,” said Ringelmann.

Some speakers also discussed the need for governmental innovation including allowing access to all public information. Cities such as San Francisco have implemented this strategy and programmers have developed numerous applications that help city residents do everything from navigate transit times to other city services information.

Vivek Kundra of said we need a “democratization of data” that “allows third parties to develop innovative apps…where there is public money. Information should be free.”

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