New 1804 center aims to be the ‘front door for entrepreneurs in Louisville’

Creating an entrepreneurial center has been a topic of conversation among Louisville startups and supporters for, basically, ever. But every time players from the community got together to really brainstorm the idea, it has always fizzled out. Briefly, Velocity in Southern Indiana served that purpose in a mostly unofficial capacity — hosting the accelerator, serving as the HQ for some startups, holding events, etc.– but when that shuttered nothing rose to take its place.

Until now. Enter 1804, an entrepreneurship center located on one of the busiest blocks in NuLu.

Madison Hamman and Justin Bailey have already met with 30 to 40 startups over the past three months to find out what those entrepreneurs need. They’re still setting up desks in the second-floor offices, but there’s a sign on the door and a sandwich board outside inviting people in. Hamman and Bailey want people to drop by and see how 1804 can help them.

“Literally, anyone can walk in the door and get help,” Hamman said.

Funded largely by the Ogle Center, 1804 aims to be a regional center and will be opening a Jeffersonsonville store front in September. Unlike similar centers in cities like Nashville and Cincinnati, which are very city-focused, Hamman says that 1804 will be looking to pair resources from the Kentuckiana area with resources across the Midwest.

“We’re agnostic to state lines,” Hamman said.

The effort is funded for three years and the organization signed a one-year lease for the office space.

Hamman is acting executive director and has been a project manager at Blue Sky for more than four years. He said that the organization would be better served by a “hero CEO” who has had an experience with starting and succeeding at a startup because they would be a role model. When one steps forward, Hamman will pass along the position.

Hamman said that this is 1804’s “experimental year.” The organization plans to provide services as well as programming to the startup community. During this first year, Hamman said that they would gauge interest from local corporations and see if they would want to get involved and in what way. They will also spend the year figuring out what they need from their physical space — more room? less room? more offices?

“Sugar high to high impact” and everything in between is how Hamman describes the center’s plans for programming.

In September, the center will host the first monthly Startup Grind, an international program by Google for Entrepreneurs. The three-hour event is one hour of a panel, one hour of a keynote speaker and one hour for networking. “That’s a sugar high,” said Hamman.

“High impact” programming could mean a lot of things, including exploring the potential for an accelerator program.

Bailey and Hamman are working on building teams of people to serve and mentor startups both in business development strategies and in helping them build their storytelling skills. The list of people who have a hand in this is the who’s who of entrepreneurship; people like Kent Lanum of the Ogle Foundation, Bryce Butler of Blue Sky and Access, investor Greg Langdon, serial entrepreneurs Steve Huey and Galen Powers, Lisa Seibert of Mightily, Vik Chadha of Glowtouch, Kelby Price of KSTC and more.

The duo has also been working hand-in-hand with EnterpriseCorp to make sure they’re not duplicating efforts.

The center is open 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. most days. The phone number is on the door; if you find the door locked text that number and someone will let you in. The center has a kitchenette and has drinks and snacks available.

1804 is named after the year that the Lewis and Clark expedition set off to explore the West. The two met in Louisville in 1803.