YOUNGSTOWN GeekPhreak offers a chance to network

YOUNGSTOWN -- Calling all computer geeks. The Youngstown Business Incubator is starting a monthly networking event called a GeekPhreak that's designed to give computer professionals a chance to share ideas in a relaxed atmosphere.
The first event will be at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Downtown Draft House. They will be held on the second Tuesday of each month.
Admission and food are free, but reservations are required by contacting Jim Cossler, incubator director.
Cossler said the event will be unlike other mixers because sales representatives will not be allowed to attend. The only people who will be admitted are those who are developing electronic commerce, software, Internet or other computer-related applications.
Those attending will be able to share ideas and resources, ask questions and explore business opportunities, he said.
What's behind this: The idea for the mixer came from the owners of software companies that are incubator tenants. Cossler said they were so focused on developing their businesses that they weren't sharing ideas with each other as much as they had hoped.
As they planned to get together regularly, they decided to open the event up to people outside the incubator.
Cossler said he had 75 reservations Wednesday and expects to reach 100. Invitations were sent to faculty at Youngstown State and Kent State universities as well as area companies.
Also, Cossler said the incubator's board of directors wants to turn the organization's capital improvement campaign over to a public relations firm because members don't think they have the time to run it.
What's sought: The incubator wants to raise $4.9 million to improve its high-tech services.
It wants to renovate its Boardman Street building, which is connected by a walkway to its main building on Federal Plaza.
Plans include a computer lab with high-end servers that would allow tenants to test their software products and a $3 million endowment to pay for increased operating costs and hiring of high-tech specialists.
The state-funded incubator, which is focused on technology companies, provides free rent and other services to fledgling companies.

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