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Five ideas, five judges and $5K: 5×5 Night joins Detroit’s packed Auto Show week

June five by five

“An idea is a seed. Sharing it is putting it in the ground. Hiding it is putting it in a drawer.”

If you’re a longtime Detroiter, then you know what the North American International Auto Show means: Trucks lining city streets, a buzz of journalists and visitors surrounding the Cobo beehive as well as cars, cars, cars.

SEptember 5 by 5This year, there is something new in the mix: A great group of programming to entertain those masses in a productive, community-building way. In addition to heading to Detroit’s many new and longtime bars, restaurants and media-fueled pressers, you can check out a couple of interesting events that will inspire (Failure: Lab) and invigorate (5×5 Night).

More on Failure:Lab in my next blog post. But trust me, you want to attend. In short, Failure:Lab is like a cold glass of water in the face. And you’ll appreciate it that night and for a long time afterward.

In the meantime, let me tell you a bit about 5×5 Night. This West Michigan phenomenon is in Detroit for one night only thanks to a unique partnership between emerge West Michigan, Michigan House and Meijer. But, once you read more about it, you may agree with me that this needs to be a regular thing in the city.

5×5 Night organizer Scot Dodd (who happens to sit across from Failure:Lab co-founder Austin Dean at work for GR Current) was kind enough to explain how Detroit got its one-night stand. Dodd said emerge West Michigan launched 5×5 Night in June; it has been doing a monthly event since then.

The process goes like this: People with ideas go to the 5×5 Night website. They upload their idea, which can be everything from “I need money to cure cancer” to “I’m tired of driving five miles to a dog park and want to create one closer to my house.” Anyone who visits the website can vote on the submitted ideas to determine which five entries will present and be eligible to win the $5,000 prize.

The five with the most votes are invited to attend the 5×5 Night extravaganza, which is held on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Those five get five minutes and five slides to convince five judges that their idea is worth the $5,000 in funding. (Get the name now?)

five by fiveTo see the five Detroit judges and check out the five presenters, go to the 5×5 Night website. To register to attend, check out its Facebook event page and show up. As long as there’s room in Michigan House, everyone is welcome to participate, Dodd said.

“We get a great cross section of the community both from the presenters and the people who show up at the event,” Dodd said. “The really cool part of it is this is a very community based event. The $5,000 that people take home comes from the five judges; each judge puts in $1,000 of their own money. Sometimes, it’s personal money where they’re pulling out their own checkbooks or it is from the organizations they work with that are sponsoring.”

The funding is a grant; the recipient does not need to pay it back. But the idea is to create a community, Dodd said. The hope is for a community where even the craziest ideas are supported, many people support these ideas and ideas receive the funding they need to become reality. For Detroit, there’s a special theme as well: Connect the Dots, encouraging people who submitted their ideas to come up with something that creates greater connectivity among Michigan’s cities. Meijer also donated the $5,000 prize this time around.

Michigan House“If you want that to be part of the culture, you have to be personally engaged. It’s been amazing, the reception we’ve had,” Dodd said.

This 5×5 Night in Detroit is a one-time thing; it is being done in conjunction with Michigan House, which does pop-up events across the country for special moments like this. Michigan House did one in Austin during the SXSW event; it did another one at Art Prize in Grand Rapids. The idea is to show off Michigan designs, products and people, Dodd said of Michigan House.

Could Detroit sustain a regular 5×5 Night? Dodd thought so. I think so. It would be great to see some group (Maybe Detroit Soup?) and others take up this idea. Connecting the dots, connecting innovators, connecting community.

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