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My Indy Hall 10+3 TY Speech 🙏

10 minute read
by Alex Hillman

Edited slightly for clarity, because let’s be honest, it was a great party.

Tonight, a number of folks have come up to me and said, “…tonight feels like a high school reunion with people that you actually want to hang out with.”

I see this as a testament to what Indy Hall really is, and has always been. Indy Hall is a way to find people who you have things in common with, and at some point down the road, you might be able to have each others’ backs.

That is why this community exists, and what it’s always been about.

So for me, a party like this is about bringing all of those people together from across all those generations.

People who have been able to contribute to each other’s work, career, life, creativity, and relationships. I don’t have the time – or the brain power after a few beers – to list all of the things big and small that have come out of this community over the last 13 years.

But I think those experiences are why you’re all here and I’m so grateful and I want to say thank you.

Three years ago, Indy Hall turned 10 years old during the same month that we moved out of our home of the previous 7 years and into this incredible new home that some days I can’t believe is ours.

The months leading up to that move were challenging, and when it came time to celebrate the 10 year milestone, we were just too burnt out. And by we, I mean me.

But three years later, we’re here catching up on those last 3 years, as well as celebrating the previous 10. We’re getting back on a rhythm of celebrating and reminding ourselves in each other of why we do this and how we’re all connected.

And it’s really special.

Next, I have a few thank yous.

First and foremost thank you to National Mechanics. To Paul Brown and to the entire National Mechanics staff and team.

Not everybody knows this, but before the Indy Hall community had a place of our own to call home, National Mechanics was one of the best places to find the Indy Hall community.

And I’m not just talking about coming here for happy hour, either.

Early on, we were a community of people who didn’t have a specific place we had to work but we all wanted to be around other people. So we started crashing cafes and bars and each others’ living rooms – anywhere that had wifi and wouldn’t throw us out.

Then in early 2007 I heard a rumor that there was a new bar in Old City that was owned by some web development people. I emailed them completely cold and said,

“Hey, um, I know you’re not open during the day and you opened for happy hour at five o’clock. But if we could work during the day at the bar, I can promise you that some of those people are gonna want to stick around for a drink. What do you think?”

They said yes and they haven’t been able to get rid of us since.

For some of us, National Mechanics has been everything from a “church”to a place where partnerships, businesses, friendships, ideas have all formed.

So many things have happened in this room. So to be able to bring all of you together in this particular place is extra special.

So a big thank you to National Mechanics, Paul, Jason, Darren, and Kylie. To Yadi, Liz, Andrew, RJ, Dylan, and Robbie. To all of the staff who have taken care of us, not only tonight but over the last 13 years. The fact that there are people behind the bar tonight who have been putting up with us for 13 years is incredible. Tip them. Take care of them. They’re the best.

I want to say thank you to my team. To Adam and to Anaia, and also to the past members of my team including several who are here tonight including Dana, my first teammate! To Parker, Karina, Maddie, Falconi, Sam, I’ve had the most incredible team supporting me in making every day at Indy Hall possible.

Each person on my team has approached the role of being at the helm of Indy Hall in a different way, but the thing that they all have in common is each of them care deeply about you and they care deeply about bringing each of you together. That’s why they’re a part of the team and why I’m so grateful for them.

I want to say a special thank you to my business partner, Geoff DiMasi. Some of you might not know that I even have a business partner! But Indy Hall wouldn’t exist without Geoff.

That’s because when I started Indy Hall, I was a toddler and a punk and a bit of a jackass. But seriously I was this 22 years old kid and Geoff was an adult who looked at me and said,

“I think that bringing bringing together is important, and I care about Philadelphia like you do. I think the way you want to do it actually might work. I can share what I know about business and placemaking and community building. I want to be part of this too.”

And so for that, Geoff, thank you for taking a risk on this toddler.

To Johnny Bilotta, another risk taker, and patient zero for Indy Hall. Plus he’s very handsome. I don’t know how he doesn’t age – I think he’s got a painting of one of us in his basement keeping him young. It’s frustrating. It’s true.

But the thing that’s important to know about Johnny in the context of tonight is that Johnny was the first person who said to me, “yes, I want to be a part of this.” What’s especially important about that response is there was no “this” to be a part of yet. There was no community, and no place to call home.

“This” was Johnny saying, “I’ll go get chicken tenders with you and talk about why we don’t have the community that we want in Philadelphia.” It was Johnny saying “I’m in.”

If you think about any community you’ve ever been a part of, any group you’ve ever been a part of, there had to be one person willing to be the first follower. In our community, that was Johnny. Thanks dude.

I could stand up here thanking every single one of you all night long, but I’m not going to do that cause I promised I would keep this short. But each of you, whether you know it or not, have contributed to Indy Hall in some way.

I think that’s the thing that makes the Indy Hall special.

It’s not a place, it’s not an idea. It’s a thing we do. It’s a thing we do together. It’s a thing we’ve created together.

Whether it’s just having a conversation with somebody, or opening up to them about a problem you have, or being willing to share your experience with somebody else who’s having a problem, or affirming somebody else’s idea, or being open about your idea for the first time, or being somebody else’s Johnny or Geoff or Adam or Anaia or Paul, that’s why this community exists.

That’s the energy that’s here in this room tonight. So thank you for that.

There is one very, very, very last thing.

Actually, I have two new things that I’m going to be sharing tonight!

I wanted to start giving out a few special things tonight. I’m not going to be able to make it around to each of you tonight, but I assure you that a number of you will hear from me in the next days and weeks.

The first is something that I want to give to some of our newest members of this community. People who’ve joined us most recently, maybe because they saw something about their future in each of you and said, “I want to be a part of that. I wanna do what they’ve done. I want to build that together.”

For you, we’ve created an enamel pin with the JFDI emblem and a card that says, “whatever you want to make happen, we’ve got your back.”

And that’s what I want everyone to go home with tonight, is that if you’re a part of this community, I hope it’s because you feel like someone has your back or you feel like if you need someone to have your back, that you can ask for it. That’s why we’re here.

Second, I have something special for the old heads in the room.

I’m so excited to see so many of you people who have been a part of Indy Hall since the very beginning. People who have ebbed and flowed in and out of our community, people who have been a part of this community, a supporter of this community, a contributor to this for all these years.

You see, a few months ago I saw our friends at South Fellini had created a Lego mini figure wearing their iconic “Jawn” t-shirt. And honestly, that was the coolest fucking Lego I’d ever seen. I bought one and it sits on my desk at Indy Hall.

Then I thought to myself…this “Jawn” mini figure is cool, but a mini figure wearing an Indy Hall hoodie would be even cooler.

So I reached out to Corey Cohen, the local artist behind South Fellini’s lego mini figs, and asked him to shrink our iconic Indy Hall hoodie down to lego size.

These mini figures are for Indy Hall members who have been around since before we moved in 2016, who’ve stuck around the longest.

This is our version of the “corporate anniversary watch.” Something small to say thank you to those who have given of themselves, of their time, of their knowledge, of their emotions.

Importantly, these custom lego minis are not for sale. They will never be for sale. They are earned and there’s a lot of people in this room who have earned them and I’m super fucking pumped to give them to you.

So tonight, I want going to close with a reading.

Not from the Torah, even though it Indy Hall’s 13th Birthday.

I’m going to read from the back of the packaging of these new Indy Hall Lego mini figures.It says:

“Thank you for making Indy Hall awesome.

As a small gesture of gratitude for your contribution to this community, you are holding a limited edition Indy Hall mini figure. They can’t be purchased, only earned.

Custom designed by our friend Corey. Just for us.”

This night is just for you. Thank you.

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.