This is a guest post by Jerry Paffendorf.
What should you do if you dream of starting the next big thing on the internet that has real world impact? You should leave San Francisco and come to Detroit! Duh!
Yep. I think so.
I moved to Detroit a little over a year ago after founding a startup with friends in Brooklyn, raising money from investors in Silicon Valley, being forced to move to San Francisco and then getting fired along with everyone else because we were a bit outside the box on our approach. That was a lot of heartbreaking fun!
(For the record, we built a real-time social layer for your browser that let’s you follow friends around the web live, see their cursors move around pages, chat and leave comments and graffiti anywhere on any site – it was crazy and awesome and now it’s in a shoebox but will live again.)
I used my last California unemployment checks to get a studio at the Russell Industrial Center and set out conceiving of LOVELAND micro real estate, an evolving online-offline project that’s seen modest bootstrapped success and has a bright future as we organically respond to what works and what doesn’t, experimenting with a combination of micro-payments, maps, virtual goods, social ownership, narrative and other elements of online games tied to real land and things.
Hear me out a second.
There’s the commonplace story of artists moving to Detroit to make use of all the big, cheap space. Less commonplace is the story of digital creatives moving here for the same, but also to tackle a different set of problems with a very different set of real world influences that you have in places with traditional internet culture, where they pile programmers and design hipsters high like sticks in a bonfire and burn them up towards the status quo. In my view that’s a bit of a waste.
Detroit has real problems and in addition to all the necessary ground work it needs new online and mobile solutions for connecting and empowering people and communities, increasing transparency, fundraising, mapping, planning, globally showcasing the great local work of the less internet-savvy, making it fun to participate in reinvention, and so on down the line.
The slightly adventurous developers and designers amongst you will find a thousand things to do, as well as a lot of attention and support for your efforts, and just a thousand of you will make a big difference.
I can imagine massive new internet success grown from Detroit’s unique condition, infrastructure and creative influences, that the rest of the world would never think of, but will happily adopt to make their lives better, too. Am I crazy or can you? Could be both. But there's only one way to find out. :-)
Jerry is an internet-loving creative American mutt in Detroit. His current projects are LOVELAND micro real estate and the Imagination Station. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 908-343-1981 to get in touch.
More information on Jerry and his projects:
LOVELAND is throwing a block party Saturday, July 17th: The Big Inch Block Party
Monumental Kitty is LOVELAND's first grant project.