How to Start a Fire

In 2006, two technophiles from Seattle — Brady Forrest, Technology Evangelist for O’Reilly Media, and Bre Pettis of, formerly of MAKE Magazine — initiated an event that would give so-called geeks their chance to stand on a soapbox.
But only for five minutes.
Ignite, which has spread to more than 50 cities worldwide in three years, allows passionate people the opportunity to spout their ideas in five minutes or less, using only 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds. Topics, originally centered on the themes of technology and entrepreneurialism, run the gamut.
The event’s Web site,, offers this scenario: “Imagine that you’re on stage in front of an audience of hundreds of people, doing a five-minute presentation using a slide deck that auto-forwards every 15 seconds, whether you’re ready or not. What would you do? What would you say? Could you stand the pressure?”
Tulsans will have the opportunity to put themselves in that situation at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 at the Blue Dome Diner, 311 E. Second St.
Matthew Eber, Nathan Phelps and Scott Phillips will host the first Ignite event to hit either Tulsa or Oklahoma.
They’re hoping for 14 to 16 presenters on various subjects, including technology, entrepreneurship and sustainability.
Eber, 27, and Phelps, 34, are both entrepreneurs working for start-up companies from home — Eber is the executive vice president of a Web site called Buzz Engine that helps non-profits and churches establish an online presence and Phelps has a health care Web site called HealthLeap — who wanted to host an event that would bring together crowds of like-minded people — those interested in creativity, technology, business and networking.
Phillips, 39, is the founder of Web site provider Isocentric Networks.
The three hosts didn’t know each other before they began planning September’s event.
“The reason we got together is because we wanted to get these two communities (technophiles and entrepreneurs) together and have an event here in town. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted it to be. It was Scott, when he got involved, who said, ‘Hey have you thought of doing an Ignite event?’ Because what we didn’t want to have to do was build the event from scratch. So Ignite really gelled with us because, when we went and looked at what Ignite was all about, it seemed to be very consistent with what we wanted to do,” Phelps said.
“People have described Ignite, and I don’t necessarily love the phrase but it captures some of the ideas really well, as an ‘open mic night for geeks,’” said Phelps.
“As Ignite has moved from city to city and been implemented in other cities, it’s broadened in scope a bit. So now instead of 100 percent of the audience and participants being geeks, 60 percent are geeks, and I expect that our event will be similar in nature,” he said.
“It’s really become an open mic night for passionate people who want to share what they’re passionate about — great ideas, crazy ideas,” Eber chimed.
People who wish to present at Ignite Tulsa may sign up at A committee put together by the three hosts will choose which of the applicants will present. The evening will begin with a cocktail hour, followed by an icebreaker game, and then about an hour and a half of presentations, separated with an intermission-type break.
The presentations, which can be viewed on Ignite’s Web site, are fast-paced, fun, spontaneous and remarkably creative.
“I think the five-minute format sort of requires that you as a presenter get to the heart of the matter and it requires that you do things more creatively because you have to,” said Phelps.
“We’re not interested in a business plan pitch conference. That’s not what this is. And, in fact, there’s all kind of discussion on the Ignite mailing list about how you manage that kind of thing. So I think one of the things we want to make clear from the get-go is that’s not what this is, and if that’s what you’re looking for, go elsewhere.
“Now, if you’re starting up a business and you want to talk about the ideas, and not necessarily the commercial aspect of your business, then feel free to do so,” he said.
“I think everyone in Tulsa is seeing, with the (Tulsa Entrepreneurial) Spirit Award and The Collaboratorium (111 W. Fifth St.) and so many other things, this real upswing in entrepreneurship. And this is about that community,” said Eber.
“I think that Ignite kind of attracts a certain individual, and those kind of people, when they meet, I think, have all kinds of interesting things to say,” Phelps said. ?

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