Since that Seattle event, Ignite presentations have been held in New York, Paris, Helsinki, and other cities around the world.

In spring 2008, Jeff Moriarty attended social get-togethers in the business, arts, and tech communities and found there was practically no overlap between them. Roger Williams, a Twitter user from Chandler, reached a similar conclusion and initiated a Twitter-based discussion about what could be done to shake things up and get people in those communities to share information and ideas with each other.

"Jeff popped in and, suddenly, he responded to this discussion with, 'Does anybody want to do an Ignite event?'" Williams says. "It made too much sense not to do it."

Jamie Peachey
Ignite Phoenix founders Jeff Moriarty (left) and Roger Williams celebrate after Ignite Phoenix 4 on June 16.
Jonathan McNamara
Ignite Phoenix founders Jeff Moriarty (left) and Roger Williams celebrate after Ignite Phoenix 4 on June 16.


Phoenix's online community is constantly changing and growing. To find out more about how local people are using social media to "tweet-up" at various events around the Valley, follow these social media evangelists on Twitter (
Jeff Moriarty: Founder of Improv AZ, Ignite Phoenix, and Phoenix Innovation Foundation
Evo Terra: Founder of "East Valley Friday Nights"
Roger Williams: Founder of Ignite Phoenix
Kimber Lanning: Chair of Local First AZ, owner at Stinkweeds Records and Modified Arts
Brandon Franklin: Ignite volunteer and taiko drum enthusiast

Ignite Phoenix 5 will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. November 3 at Tempe Center for the Arts from 6 to 9. For information on attending or submitting your idea for a presentation, visit
• Do you have the urge to drop your pants on the light rail? Improv AZ may be the right social circle for you. Check out the improvised fun at
"East Valley Friday Nights" is just one of several Friday-night meet-ups happening every week. For more information about showing up and hanging out, visit the event's site.

Shortly thereafter, Moriarty and Williams met at over beer and onion rings at San Tan Brewery in Chandler to work out plans for the Valley's first Ignite.

A few weeks later, the two announced it would happen at Phoenix's Social Media Club, a group that meets on the second Thursday of each month to discuss uses for social media.

"Immediately people were interested in presenting and attending it," Williams recalls. "It was not a hard sell."

The first Ignite Phoenix was held August 12, 2008, after-hours at the business offices in Arena. About 100 showed up, and the event was considered a resounding success.

Ignite 4 filled every seat in the main theater at Tempe Center for the Arts. The June 16 event's free tickets ran out in less than an hour with virtually no marketing, outside of social media.

One week before Ignite Phoenix 4, the Arizona Republic ran a small story previewing the event, but by that time the tickets were already long gone.

And the idea is expanding. Joe Johnston, of Joe's Farm Grill and Liberty Market in Gilbert, sponsored Ignite 4. Now he's discussing the possibility of a food-centered Ignite. Moriarty has also considered doing an Ignite with subject matter — including torture techniques, as described by a man trained to use them — that he says could be too mature for the usual Ignite crowd.

"The idea is to expose people to things and ideas that they haven't seen, and, at a minimum, they become aware of something they didn't know before," Moriarty says. "But ideally they engage and people do."

Two weeks after seeing a presentation on taiko drumming at Ignite 4, 34-year-old software engineer Brandon Franklin started learning how to play the Japanese drums.

"I was at a place in my life where I was feeling like I was in a huge rut," Franklin says. "All I did was computer stuff. I just need something else." Several years ago, Franklin was a heavy-metal drummer and said his learning to play taiko drums reawakened that part of his past.

Now Franklin is volunteering to help with the registration committee for Ignite 5 on November 3. He's not the only audience member to become a volunteer.

Tomas Cariollo is a 33-year-old human specialist (meaning he helps out with Web sites and other projects) at a Phoenix-based software company called redPear. Before that, Carrillo worked for 18 years as a process engineer at Intel, where he heard about Jeff Moriarty through the company's internal blog. The two would meet face-to-face at Gangplank, a Chandler-based collaborative workspace for freelancers and small businesses.

"He [Moriarty] bugged me enough to the point that I actually submitted to Ignite," Carrillo says. His presentation on "10 new business ideas for Phoenix entrepreneurs" was part of the very first Ignite Phoenix. It was after his presentation that he saw a need for his help if there were to be more Ignites.

"I hated the fact that they had to manually advance the slides with a stopwatch," Carrillo says. He took over the behind-the-scenes work on the presentations at Ignite and created automated slides as well as finding presenters, answering comments, and posting submissions on the Ignite Phoenix Web site.

Now Carrillo is working to bring TedX — a series of public presentations that, like Ignite, happen all over the world yet tend to focus on technology, entertainment, and design and feature celebrity speakers such as Al Gore and Bill Gates) — to the Valley.

"I honestly believe that Phoenix is on the cusp of something big and I don't think people realize it," Carrillo said. It's a sentiment shared by Brandon Franklin, who said he finds the potential of the creative events around town exciting. "They're too negative or too involved with what Phoenix was to see that that's the case. I really think that this is just providing that little extra push."

But what about the people who aren't plugged in yet? How do events circulated primarily via Twitter and Facebook affect people who don't know a social-media platform from a URL?

"At the last Ignite, we had a lot of people show up who are not on Facebook and not on Twitter — because we've gone off of that now," Moriarty said. "People who heard about it on Twitter or Facebook came and they liked it so they brought their friend, their co-workers, their mothers, the kids, whatever, and they connected."

It's just after 7 p.m. on a Wednesday in August. The workday's been over for two hours and while the rest of us are at home sitting slack-jawed in front of Food Network, Jeff Moriarty is at Terralever, a Web design firm in Tempe, leading 25 people through a presentation on volunteering for Ignite.

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There's already a mass culture of stupidity and aggressiveness in Phoenix. The superhero fight lands on the stupid side.


What #1 said!!!

El Matho
El Matho

What I find most interesting is that that one dude is 33 and he was an engineer for 18 years. That's some Doogie Howser ish right there.


Interesting article, but there's a difference between an arts community and a civic culture. Getting people out of their houses and interacting is a great way to foster a cultural identity, but if that identity is going to reach beyond "CenPho hipsters" to "Valley residents", it will have to involve those of us who don't buy vinyl at record stores, or visit trendy bars to congratulate ourselves after "spooking the straights". As Kimber Lanning pointed out, third-generation cobblers are as much a part of Phoenix as trendy scenesters. Events attracting nurses and auto mechanics as well as Web designers and sculptors would stand the best chance of creating a cultural identity for all of Metro Phoenix.

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