The year is 2014. The month is August. The Bud Light pitchers are plentiful at Brother’s Newport. Two old friends who hadn’t seen each other in six months are cheerfully catching up. 22 months later, CityNova is rapidly becoming a staple of Cincinnati’s entertainment scene.
Ignitus is Born
Matt Teaford and I met each other as members of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity at the University of Cincinnati. We became close friends when I was the Chapter President and Matt was the Social Chairman: a dynamic which models our friendship and business partnership to this day.
After a year of working together closely, Matt and I didn’t see each other for over six months. I took a one-month trip to Europe (one of those “find yourself” things) before starting my full-time corporate IT job. Matt published a collection of poems and started writing feature articles for a food/entertainment startup. One day we realized it had been too long and also realized it was $5 pitcher night at Brothers in Newport, so naturally it was time to catch up.
It wasn’t long before we noticed that pretty much everyone in the bar was staring at the TV or their phones. People weren’t really talking to each other. That’s the point of meeting up, right? To talk…? We immediately went down the rabbit hole for a 4-hour, 4-pitcher conversation about human interaction. This conversation led to stealing napkins and pens from Brothers. On the napkins, the idea and haphazardly scrawled logo were born.
Ignitus’ mission: to get people to connect with each other in meaningful ways. We planned events to get people together and challenge them to have real conversations. People loved the events, but we never grew the idea beyond 50-60 people. It was mostly an extracurricular activity for us, a fun side-project to work on when we felt motivated.
I was really honored to give a TED talk called “be a social catalyst” that reflected on a lot of the ideas behind Ignitus. Ultimately, Matt and I weren’t able to make Ignitus a priority and all of the friends we had enlisted to help moved to other cities or life otherwise got in the way. Ignitus died for about six months.
The Idea for CityNova Forms
I resigned from my corporate IT job to help my dad get his bar’s new location off the ground. Matt actually worked with me and my dad for about six months as a bartender, which means we spent a lot of time together again. In this time we talked frequently about how much we wanted to bring back Ignitus.
We went on a night hike at Red River Gorge in mid-March. (Who doesn’t want to wander around in the woods when it’s 40 degrees, wet, and dark?) I told him about an idea I had for a variation of Ignitus called “NovaCity,” which would change the focus from individuals’ interactions to the businesses, community, and new experiences. He loved it, we flipped the name around, and immediately got to work.
We brainstormed literally hundreds of article ideas, designed a mockup logo, and planned out CityNova’s activities and growth over a few years. So. Many. Ideas. Our hands hurt from writing and typing so many of them and I’ll probably be finding notes to myself for the rest of my life.
What’s Open at 5am?
One night after work, we decided it was time. Matt said to me, “are we going to do this, man?” We had been talking about it for two months and nothing had gotten moving. Alright, it’s time. After work we went to the illustrious Pepper Pod in Newport for a bite to eat – OK, maybe more than a bite. Then we got to work. After wasting an hour looking for a place open at 5am with coffee and power outlets, we sat down and mapped out 16 hours of work per day for the next forever. And so it began.
When You Said “All In,” Did You Mean…?
We’re very, very passionate about CityNova. We really believe we can ignite a movement in Cincinnati to get tons of people to go out and experience new things. So we’re working 12, 16, 20 hour days to crank out as much high-quality content as we can and move things along as quickly as possible. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we’re not going to stop and smell the roses anytime soon. We have way too much cool stuff planned. So, friends and family, we’re sorry we haven’t seen you very much recently. We promise we’ll come back. Right now, we’re a bit busy with a very large arts-and-crafts project.
When Pigs Fly
We’re very excited to unveil our new game, When Pigs Fly: a Card Game for Cincinnati Cynics. There’s so much polarizing news these days… so much negativity. We want to give you a break from that. When Pigs Fly is inspired by Cards Against Humanity, because we believe most things can be turned into a joke and everyone should take a minute to hang out with their friends and stop taking life so seriously. That’s where When Pigs Fly comes in. We developed 50 question cards and 250 answer cards, figured out how we were going to mass-produce game sets, and sent out a press release.
We couldn’t be more excited about the response. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote an excellent article featuring the game. Matt and I are going to appear on the FOX19 Morning Show at 8:20am this Monday. We’re super stoked for these little piggies to start flying off the shelves into the hands of Cincinnati cynics everywhere. Check the website on Monday to order your set.
We’d love to see you at our When Pigs Fly launch event at Moerlein Taproom next Wednesday 6/15 at 7:00pm. RSVP and details here: