Boutique tech event in Bloomington aims for big-time stature

It was nearly a decade ago when a group of community leaders, entrepreneurs and economic development executives in Bloomington decided the city needed to create a way to showcase local tech talent but also expose them to ideas and influencers from across the country.

So, in 2010, they launched The Combine, a two-day conference that has become an annual event featuring workshops and main-stage speakers.

Danise Alano-Martin is president of Humanetrix, the not-for-profit that hosts the event. The conference has grown from 200 or so people when it started to about 300 for this year’s event on April 6-7 at the Monroe Convention Center, she said.

But getting bigger isn’t really the goal.

Instead, the organizers want to keep the Combine at what Alano-Martin called a “boutique” size. “We want this to be an opportunity for people from all walks of life who are interested in these types of things to network with each other,” she said. “We don’t want it to be huge.”

But the group does want the Combine to be influential in the region, not just in Monroe County or Indiana. In fact, Alano-Martin said, the goal is to be “the premier conference of this type in the Midwest.”

This year should be a stepping stone to that larger goal, she said. While the overall number of attendees hasn’t grown significantly, the number who are coming from Chicago, St. Louis and other parts of the region will be up.

The Combine’s hook is that it’s not meant to serve one area of the tech community. Instead, it aims to bring together developers, entrepreneurs, marketers, economic development leaders and others. “We want to be at the intersection of community, capital, creativity, culture and code,” Alano-Martin said.

This year’s agenda includes Indiana-based tech leaders from Sigstr, Doxly, The Bee Corp. and Scale Computing. But it features bigger names, too, including tech marketing guru Jay Baer, a New York Times best-selling author; and June Choi, CEO and founder of New York City-based Serval Ventures and Serval Lab.

A ticket for two days of workshops, main-stage speakers and receptions is $119, and students can attend for $30.

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