It's a rare occasion when people and institutions exceed our expectations, isn't it? And when we encounter “exceptional,” it makes a lasting impression that is worth sharing. Just recently, I had the opportunity (thanks to the project's visionary, Alex Lawrence) to attend the launch of Startup Ogden - the outcome of disparate entities truly collaborating beyond typical borders. The trip was a ton of fun and taught me some valuable lessons about community and collaboration. This startup and education facility was the result of an entrepreneurial leader's vision, a university's buy-in, a city's future thinking and the community's support.
The project, dubbed "Weber State Downtown" arrived stylishly on the scene on November 20, 2013 with the opening of this coworking + education space. It's a two-year, $3.5 million project that was the vision of Alex Lawrence, successful entrepreneur and teacher. Alex is full of passion for helping young people succeed and for his community in Northern Utah. He’s brilliant at making things happen, and this project showcased how to translate vision into collaboration between disparate parties in order to innovate for the future.
With Alex’s leadership, Startup Ogden came to fruition due to a financial partnership rarely seen, including a university (Weber State University), a city (the City of Ogden), an economic development agency (the Governor's Office of Economic Development) and a local Chamber (Ogden Weber Chamber).
Startup Ogden is a multi-use space focused on coworking, but also features an iMac-filled classroom for development and design-oriented continuing education, a mobile apps lab, campus store, event space, café and get this - an Apple store (coming soon).
Startup Ogden's coworking floor
In his usual generous spirit, Alex invited some #VegasTech members (myself and David Gosse included) up to the launch festivities and its subsequent Startup Weekend. Alex has been an avid supporter of VegasTech and we've appreciated his consistent contributions in-person and from his home base in UT for our growing community. It was our honor to trek up to Ogden for his mega-launch and see what he'd been cooking for the last couple years. (For some fun outtakes, see the #SelfieTour photos initiated by Jimmy Jacobson and Porter Haney).
It's a beautiful place. The rustic modern three-floor building has been reimagined from an abandoned manufacturing facility. Original exposed brick walls date back to the late 1800's while the new hand-scraped wood floors update the look. Loads of natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows on each floor is enhanced by a glass enclosed staircase. Ping pong tables, a punching bag and conversation areas with flat screen TVs makes the old-meets-new look a definite modern vibe.
Startup Weekend’s founder underscores the imperative of inclusiveness in community
Also in attendance at Startup Ogden's launch and its subsequent Startup Weekend event later that evening was Andrew Hyde, the founder of Startup Weekend. As the 54-hour startup event began, Andrew’s keynote revealed that his original goal when launching Startup Weekend was to help build inclusive communities.
He encouraged attendees to nurture a community where everyone feels welcomed and valued. If you can do that in a weekend, you can carry over that practice to your company and city. It's hard to do a bad job when you're inclusive, he said.
That sentiment matched perfectly with the theme of Startup Ogden's launch weekend: community, inclusiveness and innovation.
Andrew Hyde and local tech goods maker, Ogden Made, founder
When we knock down our typical walls and collaborate cross-agency/company/city/demographics/company/culture, we can create something innovative that improves our collective futures.
That’s what Alex Lawrence did with his original vision for Startup Ogden and what the founding partners did when they signed on to work together for a common goal for the betterment of their young people’s and community’s future. It’s also the aim of Startup Weekends in over 200 cities around the world. And it should be the goal for each of us in our communities, companies and families. After all, collaboration is simply defined as working with others in order to produce or create something – exceptional.
Bonus section (more photos)
#VegasTech pals Jimmy Jacobson teaches Tracky CEO David Gosse a lesson or two in coding in the continuing education classroom.
Bikes as art? You bet. Especially when just outside are some epic trails in the Wasatch Mountains.