The irony gets a little heavy in this town from time to time, and we try not to obsess about it.
Still, this was a blow to how we see The New Louisville.
The day Greater Louisville Inc. named Impulcity, one of our few social-media start-ups, to its “Hot Dozen Showcase” of emerging and/or fast-growing Louisville businesses, we got an email from co-founder Hunter Hammonds confirming Impulcity now is a Cincinnati-based company.
We broke the story about Hammonds and co-founder Austin Cameron back in May – two 20-somethings with the killer concept of an app allowing people to share the night, from buying tickets to deciding where to meet up after the concert.
Since then, Hammonds and Cameron have been at the 14-week course at The Brandery start-up accelerator, working out the kinks in Impulcity.
It’s a concept that relies not only on a seamless application experience for users, but on new methods of aggregating an almost infinite amount of data even beyond the capacity of a Facebook.
With Impulcity weeks away from launching in the iTunes’ app store, it could have established Louisville as an emerging tech start-up hub. Instead, Hammonds and Cameron are going to exploit that latent potential in a town with greater resources for tech entrepreneurs.
The decision really starts with the fact Louisville doesn’t have anything remotely like The Brandery, meaning all great ideas have to leave to be refined.
But the clincher was the capital and talent 110 miles north up the Ohio River.
These are excepts from an email Hammonds sent to Insider Louisville and to GLI executives, an email Hammonds agreed to let us post.
We’re still working through terms and haven’t closed the deal. At the moment it appears that XXXXXX is going to be leading our round and has committed north of (an undisclosed amount of funding.)
For me this doesn’t come down to a matter of whether I want to be in Cincy or Louisville … I need money pretty damned quickly and XXXXXX are the guys that are really driving our round so far. If they’re going to be funding us, then we’re going to have to stay.
On a side note, I freaking love Louisville and think the support that we’ve gotten from the community, especially GLI has been … awesome. But our company and product hinges on data. I need HIGHLY talented data scientists and engineers to really scale. I’m not confident that we could even pick those people up in Louisville. A small handful may exist, but they’re being paid a fat ass salary by Humana or some (arrangement) like that. I can’t compete with their money. I won’t say Louisville is lacking talent, but I WILL say that Louisville is lacking talent that is hungry to bust out of some BS corporate job and come work with a startup to really impact change and help build something great….
Since yesterday, we’ve talked with people who either are initial Impulcity investors, or who have direct knowledge of what happened.
The overall mood is resignation: Louisville simply doesn’t have the talent or capital, apparently, to take a cutting-edge tech startup to an exit.
This is the second time a tech start-up left Louisville to after running out of cash and expertise. Rob May moved Backupify to Boston in 2008 after raising his initial round of funding in Louisville.
Louisville-based entrepreneur Adam Fish, who is not part of the Impulcity project, says he agrees with Hammonds’s observations about the shortage of highly specialized technical talent in Louisville.
Fish, who is developing Roobiq, a voice-recognition technology for business, said he’s able to recruit tech generalists for his work. But tapping into Louisville’s pool of technical talent is difficult for start-ups because there’s no mechanism for reaching them while they’re still in college, and before they’re out applying for jobs.
Start-ups are up against huge companies such as Amazon, which are recruiting the best tech talent right out of school including the University of Louisville, Fish said.
Finally, U of L is wedded to a programing language called .NET Framework, Fish said, a language designed to run primarily on the Microsoft Windows operating systems used by businesses.
U of L administrators are reluctant to adopt newer, more useful programing languages such as Python and Node.js.
“Right now, they’re … not keeping up with the latest technical trends outside corporate America,” Fish said.
“From a long-term perspective, that needs to change.
“All the universities need to give instructors more flexibility to take on more relevant research.”