by CARMEN SIERING
On its surface, the Combine looks like a tech conference. But conference chair Mike Trotzke says it’s really not. “It’s a conference for people who think for a living, people whose main focus is exploring new topics,” he explains.
“We focus on the five Cs of creativity, capital, culture, code, and community,” Trotzke says. “Those translate into the core audience. Entrepreneurs, community leaders, investors, creatives—we bring them all together.”
While there are conferences for each of those groups—tech conferences and marketing conferences and programming conferences—Trotzke says the Combine is different.
“It has content for investors and developers, and they can get together with creatives and start a company,” he says. “And there are lots of stories of that happening over the years.”
The Combine is an annual, nonprofit, volunteer-run project of the Bloomington-based Humanetrix Foundation, which develops public interest technology tools and provides educational opportunities for technologists. This year’s conference is April 4–6.
Mainstage events and workshops are held at the Monroe Convention Center. Field trips, started last year, take attendees to venues throughout the city to share experiences in smaller groups.
The Combine started in 2010, and Trotzke says its evolution
has been enhanced by community partnerships, especially the involvement of Cook Medical three years ago. “Cook lent us some of their resources, and we went from a small, five-person organization to a 15- or 16-person organization,” he says. “Now we have the time and resources to focus on the attendee experience and on the overall professionalism of the event, and that allows us to reach out further into the community.”
One way the Combine is doing that is by hosting community events. “We want to break the Combine into two components—a conference component and a festival component,” Trotzke says.
This year the Combine plans to include a synchronized drone show on Friday evening as part of the festival component. “These are popular out West, particularly in California, where they replace fireworks,” he says. “I want to do it at The Mill, then let people come in and take a tour—a very family-friendly event that can expose folks of all ages to what
is happening here. Because it’s pretty cool.”
For more information, visit thecombine.org.