D uring April 9-13, downtown Jacksonville once again transformed into the vibrant home of One Spark, the world’s largest crowdfunding festival for creators in art, innovation, music, science, and technology.
One Spark is a nonprofit organization, created in 2011 by three friends in Jacksonville, who wanted to connect great ideas with the capital and resources they need to become reality. Local news stations reported that over 260,000 people attended One Spark during the five-day festival, which is about a 60 percent increase from the first festival held in 2013. As a company that values technology, Innovation, and creativity, Beeline was proud to sponsor this incredible event and send some of its colleagues to participate in the festivities.
Some One Spark Background
This event gives new meaning to the idea of crowdfunding, which typically takes place online. Entrepreneurs and artists, also known as “Creators,” display their projects along a 20-square-block stretch of downtown Jacksonville, hoping that their ideas become the next big thing. One Spark organizers encourage entrepreneurs to showcase their projects, regardless of their current stage of development. It doesn’t matter if the ideas are backed with a formal business plan or if they are simply sketched out on napkins from the local coffee shop. As a result, something amazing happens: people bring their ideas from all sources of inspiration, including garages, dorm rooms, and even farms. In the end, the attendees ultimately decide who receives funding. The event is free for all to attend, and as attendees peruse downtown, they vote for their favorite Creators on the One Spark app. Many attendees also choose to contribute directly to the projects they find most interesting. In addition, up to $310,000 in crowdfunding and prize money was up for grabs this year. Here’s the best part: capital investors also attend the event (often incognito) in hopes of discovering the next big thing. That gives Creators the opportunity to connect with millions of potential dollars in capital resources, turning their dreams into reality.
Beeline’s Presence at One Spark
Marketing Coordinator, Kayla Tagner, accompanied four of Beeline’s most recent “hackathon” winners, including three Software Engineers (Daniel Sudhindaran, Govind Murthi, and Russell Shore) and one Lead Software Engineer (Michael Mann) to the event. Together, the group spent several hours touring the event and gaining some new perspective about technology and innovation. When asked about what they enjoyed the most about the day, the team quickly noted the passion, action, collaboration, and creativity they witnessed. “The whole day in general was amazing,” said Tagner, “The people, the weather, the smell of food trucks…the combination can make anyone just feel the creativity in the air.” Shore’s favorite part was talking to the Creators, noting, “Not only do you get their passion, but you also gain some creativity from their way of thinking, and you see how you can extend their ideas to your own work.” In addition to attending the event with the Beeline group, Sudhindaran was also a Creator at One Spark and showcased his technology project – SwitchTick – at the event. He finds the whole premise of One Spark enjoyable, remarking, “The fact that people took action on their ideas is what I enjoyed the most; whether they failed or succeeded, they took action, and did it!”
Some of Beeline’s Favorite Creators
With 610 Creators present, the Beeline team did not get an opportunity to see them all, but they still had some favorites from the day. Murthi’s favorite Creator was Forge, a portable 3D printing company, because he was able to relate it to his own field. “As an engineer,” he said, “it’s always tough to create a prototype of your ideas, and I could see how this makes prototyping for testing materials a lot easier.” Shore also found a relatable Creator, claiming Blue Dog Aerial Photography as his favorite. The Creator uses radio-controlled helicopters to produce aerial images. “I am interested in both photography and wireless vehicles, so it was a neat idea to combine both,” Shore said. Sudhindaran personally loved Snap Foods the best, a company that finds alternative ways to deliver Omega-3 fish oil through healthy, delicious foods. Sudhindaran noted, “They have healthy ice cream! It’s tasty and I didn’t feel bad about eating it!” Tagner’s favorite Creator was Bucketwish, which is a website that helps people build and manage wish lists to enhance gift giving. She explained, “I can personally see my entire family using this website, especially around the holiday season.”
Gaining Inspiration from One Spark
Beeline’s Software Engineers left One Spark feeling inspired to bring some of the great ideas they witnessed back to the company’s drawing board. Specifically, they all felt inspired to ensure Beeline’s products remain user friendly and cutting edge. When asked how the event inspired him, Sudhindaran said, “You get to see what’s out there, and it inspires you to bring the latest and greatest User Interface (UI) to the Beeline software.” Shore and Murthi focused on the impressive User Experience (UX) they witnessed from many of the Creators. Shore observed, “There’s a huge social aspect – when I looked at sites like Two Way Resume and Bucketwish – the user interaction with those sites made me think about the look and feel of websites…they are intuitive, and users quickly know how to use them.” Between the constant use of the One Spark app, as well as all of the Creator apps, Murthi noticed, “From a technology/software standpoint, all technologies are becoming social, which showed me the different avenues of social media and how people are really tackling the social space.”
One Spark’s Impact on Jacksonville
It seems apropos that such an event is hosted in Jacksonville, which was recently ranked as the best city in the country to start a business and among the top 10 cities in the nation attracting college graduates. The Beeline team agreed that One Spark creates tremendous opportunities for the city of Jacksonville. Shore noted that One Spark “brings a lot of creative thinking and general sense of community, and even though all of the vendors are different, they all want to benefit the city.” “It’s going to create a lot of job opportunities,” Sudhindaran said, “People are fed up with the costs associated with Silicon Valley and startups, so Jacksonville is a good place to start a business.” Most people in Jacksonville agree that the city is ready to embrace a new perception, and many of the residents crave a more vibrant, innovative downtown. Murthi affirms that One Spark can really help to make this happen, stating, “In addition to bringing in a lot of revenue to the city, there is a certain status associated with startups, and Jacksonville needs that perception.”
Beeline was honored to sponsor such an amazing event, and our colleagues were so grateful to have an opportunity to participate in the fun and witness the creativity present at One Spark. Did you attend One Spark last week? If so, leave us a comment and tell us about your experience!