There is an art to hosting a good event.

One where the attendees walk away inspired, informed and energized. 

Today we dive into the interworkings of events, do’s, don’ts, and things to remember the next time you want to host a gathering.  

In this episode Toph and Matt share their experiences in organizing successful events and conferences, specifically reflecting on Rally, a global, cross-sector innovation conference.  Matt and Toph share their insights about the importance of vision, uniqueness, inclusivity, and long-term commitment to hosting a successful event. 

They touch upon their respective journeys and the lessons they’ve learned along the way, with a particular emphasis on the importance of community collaboration and proactive stakeholder engagement. The conversation segues into the future of events, with the hosts suggesting that traditional conferences could evolve into more dynamic, interactive experiences, akin to open-source festivals.

Be sure to check out these great clips from the show:

  • 00:40 Unpacking Secrets About Hosting In-Person Events
  • 02:35 Global Entrepreneurship Congress Experience
  • 03:16 Post-Event Reflections and Insights
  • 03:40 Hosting Successful Events: Tips and Strategies
  • 04:12 Differentiation and Cross-Sector Collaboration
  • 05:42 The Growth of Indiana’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
  • 06:34 The Role of Disparate Stakeholders in Innovation
  • 07:55 The Impact of Cross-Sector Collaboration
  • 08:12 The Importance of Community in Startup Success
  • 18:26 The Evolution of Rally: From Conference to Experience
  • 19:55 Strategies to Attract Attendees to Your Event
  • 23:20 The Value of Creative Collisions at Events
  • 24:21 Open Source Code: A New Concept
  • 26:17 Rally: An Open Source Experience
  • 26:48 The Power of Collaboration in Events
  • 27:20 The Challenge of Control in Tech Communities
  • 27:54 The Age of the Internet and Permissionless Innovation
  • 28:03 The Collaborative Nature of Rally
  • 29:00 The Human Nature and Fear of Letting Go
  • 29:20 The Concept of Constraining Resources
  • 30:15 The Journey from Idea to Event
  • 30:57 Mistakes and Learnings in Event Hosting

Get IN. is the show focused on the unfolding stories and most extraordinary innovations happening in the heartland today. Get IN. is brought to you by Powderkeg and Elevate Ventures.

In our conversation with Matt and Toph, you will learn about:

  • Cross-Sector Collaboration: We highlighted the value of bringing together diverse stakeholders, as seen in the success of the Rally conference in Indianapolis. This event attracted attendees from various industries and backgrounds, creating a vibrant ecosystem of talent and innovation.
  • Founder-Led Startup Communities: We discussed the importance of founder-led initiatives in building startup communities. We shared our experiences of starting from small events and evolving them into platforms for entrepreneurs to present their ideas and seek feedback.
  • Rally – An Open-Source Experience: We introduced Rally, an open-source experience and festival that emphasizes collaboration and community building. We shared our lessons learned from hosting events and the importance of being intentional about diversity and inclusivity.

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Episode Transcript

Nate: From the crossroads of America in the Hoosier state of Indiana, this is Get IN, the podcast focused on the unfolding stories and extraordinary innovations happening in the heartland today. I’m Nate Spangle, head of community at Powderkeg, and I will be one of your hosts for today’s conversation. I’m joined in studio as always by CEO of Elevate Ventures, Christopher “Toph” Day.

Hello, and Matt Hunckler, CEO of Powderkeg. That’s me.

Toph: Envision Rally is an open-source experience. An open-source festival

Nate: On the show today. We’re going to unpack some secrets about hosting amazing in-person events. Those topics include how to get started with in-person events, differentiating your event from the noise and how to maintain momentum. Post-event, gentlemen, welcome to the show.

Toph: Thank you, sir. Let’s roll.

Nate: I think the first thing we need to hit on is for our visual listeners, watchers.

We have our first startup tee on startup tee. I’m going to say we’re all repping Rally. If we were all attendees at Rally, Toph was a great presenter at Rally as well as Matt. And, just want to say, if you want to get your brand represented on a show, send us three largest to 16 Tech, addressed to Powderkeg or Nate, and we will give you guys a 30-second, maybe a minute, if you’re one of the early ones, we’ll give you maybe a minute and a half shout out on the show.

I’m also rocking my new Shoe Day hat. It’s a non. What is it? New Shoe Day. NSD. It is a non-profit based here in Indy, all focused on supporting positive mental health through movement. That is awesome. I show up to Run Club every Wednesday at 5. 30 and my man Casey said, dude, take a hat. I know you always wear a hat on the podcast,

Toph: I love it. Money. Shout out to Casey and New Shoe do. New Shoe Day.

Nate: New Shoe Day. Because there’s nothing like that feeling if you’re a runner when you get those new shoes. You’re just like, I’m ready to attack the world.

Toph: Hey, by the way, have you ever

heard of Saucony?

Nate: The brand. Yes, I have.

Toph: I have heard of Saucony.

Are you a fan? I didn’t know about this brand until I was just in Australia at this Global Entrepreneurship Congress. It’s huge. And I was with Mitch Fraser and Chelsea Linder, and we’re walking through this mall in Melbourne. And Mitch Frazier went crazy because it was the first Saucony store, fully branded store, like a Nike store.

Yeah. Saucony store that he’d ever seen. And so we had to get some photo ops and he bought some paraphernalia.

Matt: Is that his brand of choice?

Toph: Yes, it’s his brand of choice. He ran a marathon over there. Oh, no kidding. Yeah, me. Was in a on a Huddlewig. Let’s go. As well. You didn’t hop in on that one? I, I…

I didn’t want to show anybody.

Nate: Yeah, that’s fair. That’s fair. So you were just at this, what was it called?

Toph: Global Entrepreneurship Congress.

Nate: Global Entrepreneurship Congress. How many attendees? Give us a little.

Toph: Yeah, they have about 2, 000 attendees. It happens every two years in the Indiana Economic Development Corporation took over a big delegation, which was awesome. And I was lucky enough to get invited. And it’s about 20 of us went over and had a big presence for Indiana, for the United States. And then the IEDC did a big announcement at the end of GEC, global entrepreneurship Congress, that it’s actually coming to Indiana in 20 and May of 2025,

Nate: Oh, we’re going to be the host of the global entrepreneurship.

Toph: Yeah. I do. See the great jobs. That’s amazing. Yeah. It’s exciting.

Nate: So coming back from an event, right? 2000 people. You’re literally all the way there was halfway across the world, all the way across the world. Down under. I think that’s a great segue, right? We’re what? I’m two months ish, month and a half out from rally or out of rally.

And I just really wanted to dive in. Matt, you’ve hosted. Hundreds, maybe thousands of events at this point hundreds at this point. And I think there’s so much talk about hosting good events and how do you make your event not be like the networking event where you show up and sling out business cards and how do you stand out?

So Toph, first year conference rally, I want to go back to the beginning and we’re going to give the listeners a few quick tips about going from zero to one. I have the idea for an event. How do I bring an event, a conference to life? What is the first thing to consider when it, when wanting to dive into an event or a conference?

What did you guys consider as you thought about getting into the event space?

Toph: The first thing that came to my mind, the key to my mind for Rally was differentiation. And the world’s changed vastly in 20 years, 10 years, five years, and it’s just a different world out there and this whole idea of when you bring a company to market today this idea of sector verticals and silos is dissipating quickly if not nearly gone.

And so this idea of cross sector, something different value, add, take away value. It just seemed like it was missing, and there’s a lot of great conferences out there, right? Sure. Like disaster’s awesome. Yeah. But it’s verticals focused. , and I’ve been to disaster many times. But it’s vertical focused and so it just felt being an entrepreneur for 30, almost 30 years in, in eight sectors, se eight companies, seven verticals. I’ve experienced this personally and usually if you’re thinking, it’s like the old thing, if you’re thinking something. In a room, probably everybody else is too. Everybody’s just afraid to say it. That’s right. Somebody’s just gotta go first.

Matt: That’s right. I think that there’s some magic there too, right?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned on this show, talking to so many different people from so many different verticals, Different types of technology different types of funding structures is that kind of cross pollination, it’s a lot of the magic that like made Silicon Valley take off in the first place as a, as one of the original innovation hubs.

But now when you think about all these other innovation hubs that are growing and scaling like right here in the crossroads of America,

Toph: By the way, we’re the 15th fastest growing V. C. Ecosystem, entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world.

Matt: I just came out this morning.

Nate: It’s a Huge win for Indiana, Indianapolis, the whole nine yards.

Matt: I don’t think everybody knows that they don’t. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. One of the best kept secrets. So that’s one of the things I love about Rally too, is there’s a lot of different whys.

Nate: Yeah, I like this, the podcast, maybe we need a tagline, the worst kept secret. We’re not keeping this a secret anymore.

We need to not keep it a secret. We need to blow this thing up.

Matt: What were the other whys that you had when considering doing Rally?

Toph: There were several high level big things that crossed my mind. One was this idea of cross sector. The second was this idea of disparate stakeholders.

And you go back to Brad Feld’s book. What was that book called?

Matt: Startup Community. Startup Community. And now Startup Community Way. Yeah. All the follow on books.

Toph: And and I think it’s it’s easy to say or write about, but we really as communities across the globe have to intentionally think about what does that really mean?

And what that I personally believe what that really means is disperse stakeholders. There’s many different types of people that make innovation happen that meet entrepreneurial ecosystems communities happen, and so it’s not just entrepreneurs and the founders or CEOs of corporations or investors.

There’s a whole nother pool out there. And that’s our K through 12 teachers. Yeah. That is foundations that are doing various things various things in the ecosystem. That is our higher education leaders and professors and entrepreneurial professors and majors, like how we rethink the majors that we have in higher education.

It’s all of these different. Our legislators, our mayors, our governors, our heads of economic development corporations. All of these people have a role to play and I just didn’t see out there where is a place that convenes cross sector, disparate stakeholders, one place, one time, massive takeaway value.

Nate: I’m going to give a shout out to our Rally Cast and a few of the founders that we interviewed on stage live at rally when asking them, they were from Argentina, Canada. San Francisco, and when I talked to them about what makes Indiana appealing to you, like, why are you here? Why are you pitching at Rally?

So many of them said yeah, money is nice, but what about the community I get to plug into? And there was some research like science, more scientific, like Biotectix. Their CEO said we want to have access to research universities like IU, Notre Dame, Purdue. And the access there in Indiana to have this true cross sector of all these different stakeholders that are actually, in the startup community is impactful and

Toph: In one degree of separation.

It’s easy to get from point a to point B here. And one thing I’ll add to just to like that impact Mitch Frazier talks about this. We have the number one highest value human health company in the world. Lily. Yeah, that’s right. And we have the number two largest animal health company in the world in the city.

And they’re literally. A quarter mile apart from each other. Yeah, that’s Elanco, Yeah. And it’s so you got David Ricks leading one, you got Jeff Simmons leading the other, and they’re literally within a quarter mile of each other. And you start adding up what you just said, Nate, right? IU, all the talent at IU at Purdue Rose-Hulman, all of our great ball state, all of our great universities, Notre Dame, et cetera. And with those types of corporate citizens, that is real power. Yeah.

Matt: Yeah. I think it. One of the other things that was magical about this particular conference, one, it came together very quickly. So a lot of people think you got to have years of planning and getting stakeholders together and making sure everyone feels good about it before we start making any kind of progress.

And one of the things that was really cool to see was just how quickly everyone at the table, everyone came to the table and said, we want to make this happen. And I think part of the magic was. Another thing that Brad Feld says in his book, startup communities obviously he has so much experience in helping grow the Boulder startup ecosystem.

Being a founder of tech stars, the largest accelerator program in the world. And the number one thing for startup communities is it has to be founder led. And I think your past experience starting eight different companies. In seven different verticals really positioned you well in this role as CEO at Elevate to be a founder, but in a position where you can help galvanize everyone together to come together and create something that was really magical over the course of three days,

Nate: I want to dive just quick pause.

Matt, you didn’t host a global cross sector innovation conference for your first event, but what you said was impactful of people think there’s too much planning. What were you doing when you held your first event? What were you, what was the thing that took you from I want to bring people together to we’re actually meeting?

Talk about that. First event, how many people showed up and what were you thinking about?

Matt: It was a little bit more humble beginnings than Toph’s road on events. I think we had all of maybe 12 to 15 people at our first event.

Toph: 12 to 15?

Matt: That’s not nothing. No.

Nate: And it’s not just were they just like friends of yours that are like, Oh, I’m interested in this, or were there 12 people, 12 to 15 people that were interested in a topic?

Matt: Yeah, I think having common ground with people is a really great way to get buy in and all 12 to 15 of these people identified as entrepreneurs and they were interested in technology. Some of the amazing things that are being built with software. Specifically, and for me, it was very self serving.

I just wanted feedback on my startup that I was frankly struggling with at the time I had sold the business I started in college, invested most of that in the next startup after paying off my student loans, and was struggling to get that business off the ground. And so I was just like, there are smart people out there that know.

know, no things better than I do. Let me just get these people in a room. I’ll tell them, I’ll buy you a drink. Let’s get together. What was magical about that event is. Two other guys, and it was guys because it was frankly, the people I knew it was pretty male dominated for that first event.

But they were like, Hey, you’re getting these guys together. Why don’t we, can I present what I’m doing and get some feedback as well? So that’s how, that’s literally how it started. And I didn’t even think of it as an event. I just thought of it as we’re grabbing beers. It just so happened that there was a projector screen and, three people who were pitching their startup and getting feedback.

Nate: So that brings me to this. Kind of point what comes first the people or the programming when hosting a good event

Matt: People 100 percent

Toph: Yeah, it has to be the people because if

Nate: I’ll push back The first thing you said was cross sector global innovation or global cross sector and that seems like programming to me so the first thing came was people.

Toph: Yeah, the first thing went through my mind was people it was like So we have one of the largest cohorts of portcos in the country. Maybe the world right? Yeah 400 And so I watched the needs of these entrepreneurs on a daily basis. I lived it for 30 years. And in this current role, I interact with a lot of leaders of different types of organizations, right?

Economic development corporations, foundations, et cetera, et cetera. And everyone is looking for connective tissue. Yep. And they’re looking for connective tissue cross sector with disparate stakeholders. Yep. And it’s just a common theme that kept occurring. It’s that’s, it was the people.

Nate: What was the first big win, right? So if it’s people, then what was the first big win for you bringing Rally to life?

Toph: Yeah. So the first big win was I went to a disparate stakeholder, an economic development corporation, the Indiana economic development corporation and said, Hey, I’ve got this idea.

We got to do something bigger. I think it’s a big gap. And, but we need help getting this thing off the ground. We help with funding and they got it right away. And he said, absolutely, we’re in and that’s, that was the first step. And I don’t think either rally would have never happened or come about, um, or it certainly wouldn’t have been as big as it was in year one without that disparate stakeholder getting it stepped up to the plate and said, we will help and support.

Matt: I do think that’s something really unique about Indiana in particular, and I promise this whole episode won’t be an infomercial for Indiana. Maybe it will be. But more than a decade ago, I hosted my first conference. Here in the state of Indiana. Now, it was one track. It wasn’t cross sector. It was very focused on software and technology.

It was called Powderkeg. We we were, and that’s literally where the name came from. It was like, how do we take all of these raw resources, put it together for, a multi day conference. And ignite the untapped potential that are in these kind of Unvalley tech hubs. Much smaller in scale, 300, 400 people.

But IEDC, Signed on and said we want to support this. I didn’t even think to ask them. I had to have, other people who are sponsoring the event and be like, you should really be talking to IEDC, because they could really get behind this. And then once they did, it was like the scale completely tipped.

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Toph: So I want to share some numbers real quick. I want to credit David Adams, who’s just an incredible individual. He ran a perf and turf for a number of years and that became in person. And then he went to Cincinnati, by the way, before that he was with a unicorn before they were ever called unicorns.

And then he went over to Ohio and set up 400, 000 square feet of innovation space, came back, was over workforce development here, et cetera. Just an amazing individual. And So we were talking and he was sharing some Stanford statistics and So Stanford right incredible University highly innovative Tech transfer all these things right over since inception.

There’s been 6, 000 companies See, I think I hope I have these stats, right? So forgive me if I’m wrong, but we’ll fact check in six 6, 000 companies that have spun out of Stanford in the last since inception of when they started doing this. Yeah. 23%, 1, 440 check my math, 1, 440, roughly of those companies ever made a dollar.

Oh my gosh. 53 have made over a million dollars in revenue. So this is a long term game. Yep. And so the economic development groups, our governmental bodies, our foundations, etc., etc., our universities, we need to, we have to understand that to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, a strong community it is a long term game.

Matt: That’s my other big takeaway from Brad’s book. I know he… But he studied so many startup communities and one of the top things he said for any entrepreneurial ecosystem, you have to have a 20 plus year view.

Toph: And I think largely we might only be into it here. 15 ish plus of like real concentrated effort. Yeah. 15 years.

Matt: Our first event wasn’t until 11, 12 years ago. Yeah. No, maybe it was 14 years ago at this point. Yeah.

Nate: You didn’t call an event then it was just grabbing beers. That’s true.

Toph: Speaking of which, can I touch on that real quick? Yeah. That conference event. Summit experience.

What are these things? I think that’s also up for debate. Yeah. I don’t think there will be a rally conference much longer, or even in a year or two. I think the word conference, maybe we should stricken that word. Why is that? I think it’s old school. Yeah, it is old school. The way we innovate today is very vibrant.

It’s very it’s very fluid. Yeah, conference feels a little static. It feels like you’re sitting in, it just feels a little static. It feels a little old school.

Nate: If you’re looking for someone to run the music festival piece of rally in the future, Yeah, I might be able to book some talent for you.

Toph: Let’s roll.

Nate: No one says South by Southwest conference, right? They did. I feel like people did say a little bit rally conference. Yeah, we’re going to take or the rally which was Really interesting. And I didn’t hear that one. I’m going to the rally and I was like, Oh, okay. But I think that all of that, what makes it in my mind, from the 26 year old perspective, it’s like South by Southwest.

I think of the S there, like some people don’t even think of it as a like businessy conference. There’s the music and the movies and

Toph: Because it started, I think with music.

Matt: That’s started with the arts. It started with the arts.

Toph: Yeah. And then the other stuff came in years later.

Matt: Interactive later. And now it’s a fest, I think of it as a festival. A festival.

Toph: Yes.

Nate: Yeah. Which is really, that’s fun for them and I’ve heard great things. I haven’t made it down, but I think I’m going to go this March and check it out and go down there and down there. Yeah, I mean I’ve heard it’s a good time.

Our boys at the Midwest House will be posted up. Yep. This is more of a tactical one, but were you talking about events, conferences, summits, the list goes on and on, it’s crowded, especially getting people to your. I’m going to say that to your soiree, right? How do you get people, what’s your number one tip or a couple of tips or strategies to get people to show up?

Cause that’s hard. Every, every two days it’s like new invite for this, new invite for that. How do you get people to show up to your event?

Matt: I think we touched on it a little bit, which is starting with the why. Like why show up? Why are we doing this? Why this event? Why now? And if you don’t answer those questions, people aren’t going to show up.

And I think one of the things that we can talk about marketing tactics and things like that, I think Riley did a tremendous job with that. But I think you can’t, all the best marketing tactics in the world won’t work if you don’t have the why down and like your. You can have a tech talk video go viral and put, powder keg, pitch night at the end.

But if it’s not compelling and there’s not supporting content as to like, why come to this, people aren’t going to show up. And so the, I do think starting with the Y is probably the most important thing. And very frequently, unfortunately in startup land people can like skip over that part, the why, just because startups.

I would say that’s not a compelling why it’s not differentiated to your point of you have to be different differentiated and say. This doesn’t exist yet, or it doesn’t exist yet here. That’s part of how Powder Keg, came to be. I was spending a lot of time on the West Coast in New York, and when we started really ramping up our pitch events, I was getting a lot of inspiration.

from other markets where this stuff had maybe been going on for a few years.

Toph: I was in this ecosystem before you were, right? Just age difference. Yeah. And I don’t recall anything like what you started existing. No. Before you started.

Matt: No it, it absolutely didn’t. And there’s a group called Hackers and Founders out in the Bay Area still being run by Jonathan Nelson out there.

And we were largely influenced by that, let’s get the people building stuff and the hackers, quote unquote, and the founders, the people who are the CEOs, and now those two people aren’t, it’s not always, it’s not always two different people. But that was a lot of the growth of the ecosystem came when we adopted that mentality of okay, let’s broaden this beyond entrepreneurs and start like inviting builders into the room.

And then eventually, because those people were there, guess who started to show up. Investors, right? Because if this is where things are happening on the ground floor, That’s right. Where do you want to be if you’re an investor? Do you want to be on the ground floor? Or do you want to be trying to get into the round of funding?


Toph: When it’s too late. And not only meeting those people then also with the time savings. Yeah. You can go there in one night, in two, three hours. That’s right. And meet a dozen, and like legitimately meet. Yeah. And have a chance to chat with a dozen people that would take you. Three months to try to schedule those coffee chats in this net.

Nate: Yeah, I think that is a key thing to remember when you’re being invited to events is yes, you, the initial buy in is the programming or the person, but there’s, it’s like the iceberg, right? That’s the little, like 10 percent at the top, but going into these events, going to these conferences, going to these.

Whatever you want to call them, right? It’s all the value happens like down, downstream below the surface, in my opinion. Like just from going to a bunch of events.

Toph: It’s the creative collisions.

Matt: Yeah. There’s a, there we go. And I think our why in the early days before, before we even had a hundred attendees during that first year, I think the why was how do we make Indianapolis a place where it’s fun, collaborative.

And easier to start high growth, venture scale startups. Yep. And everyone got behind that. And it wasn’t just about them, even though it started in a very self, in a very selfish way of I wanted to pitch my startup and get feedback. Beyond that, it was really, Hey, I’m going to show up to this event and I’m going to get something out of it.

But the real why is I want to help my community.

Toph: Yeah. I love that, Matt. And the way I think about rally is the concept of open source code when that started coming around. And people are like, Oh, that’s crazy. Open source code. Like, why would you do that

Matt: for those that don’t know what open source code is?

Can you probably can do a better definition of open source. It’s really cool because it’s like the intersection of technology and community. And open source is literally rather than a a technology being proprietary and a walled garden where people don’t really know what’s going on and you have to pay to play.

Yeah. Open source is a collaborative concept where at least if you’re thinking of like a software language or you’re thinking a platform like WordPress is open source that means a whole community of technologists and builders can contribute and help make this a bigger, better. Yeah. Yeah. It’s moving fast.

Nate: It’s like the old days of Wikipedia. Was that like one of the original like open sources where everyone from around could just, yeah, could just put,

Matt: Which by the way, it was started by an Indiana. I you grad, no way. Yeah. I found her Wikipedia. Do you remember who I’m blanking on the name right now?

That’s awesome. But Nate’s looking it up and I’m going to be kicking myself. The moment I, I think I remember hearing that actually. Yeah.

Nate: Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger, Jimmy Wales. I you grad, I’ll shoot him.

Matt: And I think I’m getting that but I know. I know he was, he spoke down at the combine once, which was a Bloomington, Indiana conference.

That’s been going for a few years.

Toph: It’s great. So I want to draw a correlation real quick.

Matt: Yeah. Let him finish. Open source. I stole the mic.

Toph: So the that’s all good. So the same concept and when did that start? 20 years. Which thing? So open source code, kind of source code, open source code, it really take off.

That’s a great question. And yeah, it’s been a while, right? Yeah. Yeah. It’s been,

Matt: it’s a concept that’s

Toph: definitely been around for a while. Yeah. It’s been around for a long time. The, and the concept back to of community, everybody can move faster, more efficiently, better. And so that’s how I envision rally.

. And so we envision Rally as an open source experience. An open source festival. And and we already experienced this in the first year, but rally is specifically built. So if you have a, your own brand. Your own event or conference or summit or whatever it might be, and you want that to be open sourced and part of something bigger.

If you’re listening to this, come on, you’re invited, and we’re not trying, we’re not asking you to give up your brand. And so we already had this happen in year one where IWIT, where ITIA Generators Ag Conference, they all plugged into Rally. Yeah. And we’re part of this.

Matt: Our awards ceremony. Your awards to the Powderkeg Awards.

Which we did on our own for. I’ve been a number of years,

Toph: So all those people plugging into something even bigger. It just makes everything better. And so I’ve never been a fan of fiefdoms or people who want to maintain control at all costs. That will suffocate anything good faster than anything else.

Matt: I think this is the biggest challenge in tech communities today. Tech startup innovation communities today. Having visited hundreds of communities, not just in the U. S., but worldwide. The fiefdoms and fiefdoms is the biggest barrier to really unlocking growth. Yes. In a community the people who have the power in the community don’t open it up because they want to try to maintain control.

Yeah. Control, which is just impossible. Yeah. Long term in a startup community,

Toph: It’s gonna fail for sure. It’s just a matter of when. Yep. Is it tomorrow or next year?

Matt: Exactly. Exactly right. Because that’s not the age we’re living in. We’re living in the age of the internet. Yep. You don’t need permission to make stuff happen.

You don’t need permission to host an event. You can just do it. That’s right. And I love that about Rally. I think that is unlike any conference festival, whatever you want to call it, that I’ve ever attended, just how collaborative it wasn’t just collaborative Hey, I, if you want to do this, you pro actively, and I see you at the Royal, you, the elevate team.

Was proactive about saying, hey, hi alpha. Do you want to be a part of this? How do you want to contribute? I would how do you want to contribute ITIA? How do you want to we want you involved? I thought that was really powerful and compelling

Toph: Yeah, I Don’t know how to operate any other way. Yeah, I just don’t it’s too hard To operate with your arms folded and your lips pursed.

It just is, right?

Matt: I do think that there’s something in human nature, though, that it’s like you almost have to evolve past I don’t I think humans haven’t evolved past it yet.

Toph: Let go of some predetermined unknown fear. Yeah, I think it

Matt: won’t happen anyway. I think it’s our primate or lizard brain that’s fight or flight.

Yeah, you think back, even a hundred. 50 years ago. It’s this is my land. Like I can’t if you come onto my land now, I can’t eat this winter, and it’s just I, and so I don’t want to dismiss it. That’s literally what it is. It’s like that concept of trying to constrain resources is like.

It’s in our genes. It’s genetic but it’s for a very different time. We are living in a land of abundance right now.

Nate: In which open source code was started in 1998. There you go. In case you were wondering. 23 years old. For everyone

Toph: who’s, I was really hung up on that. And in that, Was

Matt: that a stat you looked up on Wikipedia?

No, I

Nate: just know that in the back of my head. Actually, I do have Wikipedia up. And it looked up the founder of Wikipedia on Wikipedia. And then I looked up when did open source code

Toph: start? So 19, 19, what’d you say? 1998. So 1998, open source code was was founded. And in 2023, the idea of open source.

I love it.

Matt: 25 years later

Toph: 25 years later, let’s put that on Wikipedia was opened open sources rally.

Nate: I love it. Let’s talk about that then you’re a year or what we are just past where we said six weeks past, but the idea was probably around a year, maybe a little less than a year from idea to less than a year.

Toph: So idea, first conversation to go time to, to. Walk on stage was 10 months. I should actually 10 months was 10 months the actual the real outreach Outside the community didn’t start until late February March. We have a website

Nate: That’s yeah. So that’s six months. Yeah. Okay. Six months in, in the go time.

Let’s talk about for maybe there’s other community builders that want to host an event, a conference and experience. What is, and Matt for you as well, what’s a mistake that was made that if you could guide someone who’s hosting a conference, say, hey, I messed this up. Fix it. Like you do this differently.

Matt: I’ll go first. Go! Go! Can we do it in a 4 hour podcast today? Where do I start? Where do I start? Now, sorry. Go ahead, Toph. No, after you. After you. I won’t forget mine. You go after you. I would say probably my biggest mistake I made early on was just like, oh yeah if you know me and we’ve met, you should come.

And I wasn’t as intentional about, what you did with Rally, which is going to diff, different stakeholders and groups now, granted, there weren’t really that many groups in Indiana when we started hosting events, but I could have been more intentional about saying, how do I find more people who don’t look exactly like me?

How to be more intentional about filling the room with, getting outside of my immediate circle and asking more people to get, into their circles and get outside of their circles. And there was a time period where. I had the aha, because a couple people who came to the events were like, hey, you ever noticed that there’s not many women here at this event?

Yeah. I was like yeah, I get that, but what do you want me to do about it? Cause I was a, young 20 something.

Nate: I didn’t know young 20 somethings.

Matt: They’re the worst. Those guys, gals, people. But it, it was really like looking in the mirror and being like, okay, yeah, we are like hosting these events at that time.

It was like a keg and solo cups cause that was a cheap way to get beer. And it was exploding. Like hundreds of people were coming and I was making Or Fellow salary and trying to cover the tab for beers. I’m like, Oh, I’m just going to get a keg and some solo cups. It starts to look a lot like a frat party and that isn’t necessarily a welcoming environment for everybody.

And so just making a few tweaks around being intentional about saying Hey, everybody is welcome to this. At that point in time, we were really hosting community events and being intentional about saying Hey, we want to get different people like plugged into tech and plugged into entrepreneurship opportunities there.

The stage is big enough for everybody. And just being a little bit intentional. And that’s now in the fabric of our DNA at Powderkeg. Literally built into our core values at Powderkeg and our culture. But there was a time where it wasn’t and it was just very not intentional. It was just it was organic.

And I think that’s okay to let those things happen. You don’t want to slow down growth artificially. But I would say that was my biggest mistake from day one was being intentional about getting diverse perspectives and diversity in the room and now almost 15 years later, obviously there’s tons of research that shows how that’s beneficial to innovation.

Having different perspectives is one of the most valuable things that you can have on a team in order to grow and scale as long as it’s an inclusive environment.

Nate: Diversity. I think that’s a great way. You’re a great lesson learned early on. Toph, what do you got?

Toph: I think sometimes when things are so clear if you have a clear in your mind, it’s easy to make the assumption that it will just be clear in everyone’s mind.

And and when you’re dealing with a short timeline, um, and you’re so deeply driven by just passion. You can go a little too fast for some stakeholders. And and you just make the assumption that this is a, why this is going to be the world’s largest cross sector innovation, like event conference experience festival.

We’re going to figure that word out here. Soiree. Nate’s sticking with soiree. You might have something there, Nate. But like the why, that’s why it’s a cross sector, disparate stakeholders, creative collisions, like bang, let’s roll. And and not everybody necessarily thinks that way or agrees with that.

And you try your best. And what we said early on was, Hey, we use the word startup. We got to think of this as a startup. We are going to make mistakes. People might get upset. None of that is intentional. And hey, if you’re upset, just pick up the phone call. It’s all good, right?

And we’ll try to accommodate, whatever. And then yeah, I would say that’s probably the, that’s probably the biggest.

Nate: I think that’s good lessons, good learnings, especially people that are moving fast. That’s just for visionary CEOs in general, right? It’s sometimes it’s it might be clear up in your head, but you’re moving fast and thinking it’s just, oh, it should be self explanatory to a lot of people.

It’s not always that way.

Matt: I was about to say the same thing. I feel like I, Continue to learn that lesson over and over as a startup.

Toph: And by the way, through the experience holy cow, we had stakeholders come out of the woodwork and Hey, how about this? How about that? I’m like, great idea.

Great idea. Boom. Incorporate. We are,

Matt: I think I was about to just double click on that. All of our best ideas at powder Cake came from the community a hundred percent. . Yeah. And that kind of attitude is really exciting because that’s how you can build serious momentum. Yeah. At powder cake events, we introduced the slow clap that just happened organically one time.

Like someone hit their time while they were pitching and someone in the audience just starts. That is awesome. I didn’t know that. Yeah. I didn’t start doing that. That’s sick. That was like, just totally a community thing. Do you remember who that was?

Toph: I don’t remember who that was. We need to bring that back.

Matt: I’m pretty sure it was a developer who’s just yeah,

Toph: I’m over this. I love it.

Nate: Guys, I switched up the lightning round today. We’re going to be super quick. We’re going to go Toph Matt Toph, Matt. Yeah, you like that? It’s all about events, Bucket List, er, sorry, Lightning Round, all about events.

I like Bucket List. Who is a Bucket List event speaker for you, that you haven’t had already? Michael Jordan. Bang.

Matt: Matt? That’s on my Bucket List, too. No, you can’t copy. Michael Jordan, come on. No retweets.

Toph: By the way, Michael, if you’re listening

Matt: Get in to Ron M. J. Don’t let all those Pacers games deter you.

Michael Jordan’s a good one. Bucket list speaker. John Mellencamp.

Nate: Ooh, he could get in. Indiana guy. Matt. Bucket list event venue.

Matt: Bucket list event venue. There is a new… Venue that just opened in Las Vegas that was like co designed by U2. It’s literally built for music.

Are you talking about the sphere? It’s the sphere. Yeah. So many big arena tours can only go in like football stadiums. But having just gone to the Taylor Swift tour down in Nashville awesome experience. Acoustics are terrible. Like you, like that venue is not where the Titans play is not built for music.

Yep. This thing that U2 created, I think there’s like thousands of speakers in there and there’s like literally a 360 spherical. Lcd Dope,

Nate: it’s crazy. Look it up. I’ll link something in the show. This is awesome

Matt: That’s definitely my dream venue

Nate: Toph dream event venue bucket list event menu

Toph: You know I was gonna say you mean to host an event to host an event at i’m just gonna say the moon Hell yeah.


Matt: go.

You totally trumped me with that one. Okay. Final one.

Nate: The moon.

Toph: Final question of the lightning round. By the way, there’s a company in Austin, Texas that’s building, they’re trying to figure out right now how to use materials from the moon. Is that called SpaceX? No, to build just on 60 minutes.

Did you see this? I didn’t see it. It’s amazing. Did you just say it’s on 60?

Nate: People still watch 60 minutes?

Toph: I was sitting there bored the other night and I caught it.

Nate: All right. And final question of the night. No, no one my age watches 60 minutes. That’s like the ultimate Sunday scary.

Matt: By the way, 60 minutes is beyond your attention span.

Toph: It’s the first 60 minutes I probably watched in five years. There we go. But I saw something cool.

Matt: Come on, you’re building stuff on

Nate: the moon.

Besides, Toph, besides your, besides rally. What is a must attend event,

the Superbowl? I love that. Absolutely. I agree. Besides Powderkeg Pitch Night, Matt, what is a must attend event in Don’t say Rally?

Matt: It’s tough because you can’t really get tickets right now, at least for this year, but pay attention for when tickets go on sale. Amazing event called Tonic Ball.

It’s hosted in Fountain Square in Indianapolis. It’s literally I think four or five different music venues. You can just hop between that, the hi fi, the White Rabbit. Radio, and each stage is dedicated to an artist. So like this year, like Prince is one of the artists and I’m blanking on what the other artists are, but you see all of these kind of like locally, regionally famous bands playing the music of.

Prince or playing the music of like last year was Jimi Hendrix at radio. Just an amazing event and all the money from ticket sales goes to second helpings, just an amazing nonprofit here in Indianapolis. That’s also helping people fight hunger.

Nate: Perfect. Tonic ball. Got to go gentlemen.

Thank you for the for the time. It was fun unpacking a little bit into the minds of two event. Organizers. We’re going to call them event. We’re going to think of a I prefer just to be called Rally

Toph: On that front, my focus is elevate, right? Pushing this ecosystem forward. So just rally.

Matt: I’m going to sneak in one last question.

One last question. How can people support? The Rally soiree and get involved.

Toph: Yeah. Several ways. So number one planning has already started for 2024. So be watching out for applying to be a speaker. Be watching out if you’re a founder, entrepreneur. Be watching out for when you can apply for the pitch competition.

If you host an event or a soiree or a whatever it might be. Of any type of sort around cross sector innovation. Then we would love to have invite you to hold that within Rally to make it all bigger and to raise your profile. So feel free to reach out on that front as well. And then we want to spool up the music scene at rally and we would love to try to start that next year.

And it’s just bandwidth. So any volunteers that want to take on and launch that component of it. Give me on that board. Sweetwater has reached out and they wanted to see how they can get more involved. I think there’s a lot of like Mike, if you’re listening we’re open to this.

We’re excited about it. So dates.

Nate: August 27th through the 29th, 2024. Mark your calendar. You can go buy early bird prices are available. Check out rallyinnovation. com. Check out the shirts. Get there, get in on rally.

Matt: The early bird prices are obscene too. It’s like I think the price

Toph: just went up October 1st.

Matt: Now’s the time. Yeah dude, it’s true. They didn’t just keep going up.

Toph: We did a 30 day crazy talk and I’m like early innovation, I don’t know, that’s pretty low. Yeah. But what is it now? Look,

Nate: Real time. I clicked to 199, 140, 149 student. So 299, 299. Yeah, regular price is 999. Get there. Get in on rally.

Gentlemen. Thanks for the time.

Matt: This has been Get IN a Powderkeg production in partnership with elevate ventures and we want to hear from you. If you have suggestions for a guest or segment, reach out to Matt or Nate on LinkedIn or on email. To discover top tier tech companies outside of Silicon Valley in hubs like Indiana, check out our newsletter at And to apply for membership to the Powderkeg executive community, check out We’ll catch you next time and next week as we continue to help the world Get IN. Since you just listened to this podcast, you might be thinking about starting one for your company.

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