The Combine Conference Returns To Bloomington This Week

(BLOOMINGTON) – Now in its ninth year, The Combine, the premier annual Midwest conference on entrepreneurship and innovation, is expanding its programming this year to include skill-building for coders as well as tailored Bloomington experiences through five “field trip” options for attendees.

The event, April 4 – 6, will be held in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, with most sessions held at the Monroe Convention Center, but other Combine events will lead attendees to venues throughout Bloomington.
Since launching in 2010, The Combine has become a critical touch point for the rapidly growing Midwest startup community, connecting more than 1,800 innovators, creators, and investors over the last nine years. Last year, the planning team included sessions with an appeal to “intrapreneurs” or those who create innovations within established companies, and this year, the planning team continues that expansion theme with a third workshop track aimed at coders.
“In addition to our ‘Create’ workshop track that focuses on startup topics, we’ve always had a ‘Grow’ workshop track focused on issues that established companies face, such as marketing or navigating legal issues,” said Mike Trotzke, co-founder of the Combine and vice president of the nonprofit Humanetrix Foundation, Inc., which produces the event. “Now this year, we’re thrilled to add a third track – ‘Develop’ – offering two additional workshops to give software developer teams insights on issues they commonly face.”
With the core idea of the Combine to foster a culture of innovation by intentionally mixing different people of varying skill levels and functional roles together, Trotzke said the addition of the Develop workshop track deepens the conference’s ability to attract an eclectic audience.
Also, new this year is a concerted effort to deepen attendees’ relationship with Bloomington through five Saturday field trips, each showcasing one of the “Five Cs” of the Combine: Community, Creativity, Capital, Culture, and Code. The Code field trip, for example, provides a hands-on experience of coding by visiting Indiana University’s Luddy Hall and seeing the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) behind Amatria, the sentient art installment that learns from its spectators. In addition, Code field trip-goers will make their own take-home gift at the Hoosier state’s oldest makerspace, loomingLabs, before returning back to the Convention Center via the Combine field trip shuttle.
The Combine also continues to provide the networking opportunities it has become known for and the chance to learn from nationally renowned speakers also covering a wide gamut of topics under the Combine’s 5Cs. The main stage speakers are an eclectic mix of presenters, with the lineup full of industry influencers including:

  • The Cybercode Twins – America and Penelope Lopez are hackathon experts who’ve garnered several national and international tech competition awards including the NASA International SpaceApps Challenge, IBM Global Innovators Challenge and more
  • Kara DeFrias – former Director of Experience Design for Vice President Biden at the White House
  • Tiffani Ashley Bell – founder of the Detroit Water Project and Human Utility
  • Mike Rohde – designer, champion of visual thinking literacy, best-selling author of The Sketchnote Handbook and The Sketchnote Workbook
  • Max Yoder – founder and CEO of Lessonly, and author of Do Better Work: Finding clarity, camaraderie, and progress in work and life
  • Aaron Gillum – Senior Vice President in the Private Equity Group for 50 South Capital

Integrated workshops and related events also provide ample opportunities for community members to join the collaboration. These include the Civic Code and Design Challenge, a partnership with the City of Bloomington and BMG Hack, a Code for America group, that has been underway since February, bringing creative and code talents together to find solutions to community issues. Civic Code and Design Challenge participants will present their results on the Main Stage on Saturday morning.
Also, Ignite Bloomington, an event for gutsy innovators to share knowledge on stage in five-minute bursts of energetic presentations launches Combine weekend on Thursday evening at the Switchyard Brewing Company.
A complete list of speakers, workshop presenters, and events can be found on the website. In addition, the website blog shares more details and background on the conference, its volunteers, and attendees. Tickets are $99, or $25 for students.
About the Combine
The Combine is an annual non-profit, volunteer-run conference in Bloomington, Indiana that began in 2010. The event objective is to see what can be “harvested” from diverse groups coming together–new businesses, community initiatives, and partnerships. The Combine is a project of the Humanetrix Foundation, Inc., a passionate group of
entrepreneurial techies looking to connect innovators across the Midwest by supporting the development of public interest technology tools and providing educational opportunities for technologists. For more information about the conference, visit, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.