Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Tyler Henke didn’t think he would always call Bloomington
home. But now the entrepreneur not only has rooted his businesses here, but he is actively working to bring more young professionals to his hometown.
“Bloomington is perfectly weird, super comfortable, and full of incredible people,” Henke said of some of the things that lured him to return after completing studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I didn’t expect to stay in Bloomington, but quickly fell in love with the startup community and its potential. I haven’t looked back.”
Henke was always interested in startups, and even majored in Entrepreneurship in the UW School of Business (actually, he double-majored along with Marketing), but it wasn’t until moving back to Bloomington that his startup interest became personal.
Along with friend Forrest Fowler, in 2014, Henke launched a software design consultancy business. The team needed office space, and also recognized that not only did other entrepreneurs need a place to work, but so did a lot of other independent professionals. It was then the Henke and Fowler joined up with another remote worker and web designer, Aaron White, and co-founded Cowork Btown. The downtown Bloomington cowork space makes no bones about the fact that it exists to keep and attract great talent to Bloomington.
“By creating a home away from home for Bloomington’s community of independent workers, I hope we’re able to persuade more professionals to come to, fall in love with, and stay in, Bloomington,” Henke said.
Henke is proud that Cowork Btown is part of a statewide collaborative network of coworking spaces that participate in the Indiana Coworking Passport program, allowing members to visit other spaces in the network for free.
“Indiana has one of the best coworking communities I’ve seen anywhere. And I’m drawn to spaces that prioritize their people, because coworking is about so much more than conference rooms — it’s about connecting their people.”
Earlier this summer, Cowork Btown joined forces with Dimension Mill, Inc., the nonprofit transforming a more than century-old building in Bloomington’s Trades District into coworking and business incubator space, and Cowork Btown will continue its mission to connect people at the Mill when the facility’s historic renovation is complete.
Henke reflected on his team’s approach to creating camaraderie and community not just among startups, but among remote workers, contractors, independent consultants and small businesses through Cowork Btown. He likened the approach to the Combine event. Henke said attending the Combine has helped him to make important connections, and encourages others, whether involved in a startup or not, to check it out.
“I like the Combine because it recruits national talent (both speakers and attendees), but it still feels very local. So much can come from the connections made at this event, but they won’t create themselves!”
Henke noted he’s looking forward to Combine 2019, because his latest venture, Ziptility, a mobile data mapping utility, is in an early stage, and Henke knows the Combine will give him a chance to learn from others. Last year, although the Ziptility team wasn’t ready yet to pitch to Paul Singh during his Tech Tour Office Hours at the Combine, Henke did have an opportunity to chat with him, and next year, he’s hoping to do it again, this time elevating the conversation.
“I asked him about enterprise sales, since it’s something we’d been struggling with. I’m hoping I can track him down this time next year and ask a harder question.”
With Henke’s success and experience with CoWork Btown, his design company, and now Ziptility, it’s likely that Henke himself will be sought out by other Combine attendees to share his own perspectives with them, too.
Connect with Henke at the Combine 2019, and also on Twitter, @tylerh.