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Mark Reed speaks to a packed house at Ignite 28 in Seattle in September on the topic, “My Life as a Nuclear Freakshow.” The Ignite series, which started nearly nine years ago, has been reacquired by one of its founders, Brady Forrest. (Photo by Morgen Schuler Photography, via Ignite.)

Brady Forrest, who hatched the Ignite speaker series with his colleague Bre Pettis nearly nine years ago in Seattle, has acquired Ignite from its longtime steward O’Reilly Media and formed a new public benefit corporation to build and support Ignite’s presence around the world.

Brady Forrest introducing Ignite at an event in 2009.
Brady Forrest introducing Ignite at an event in 2009. Photo by Kris Krüg, Creative Commons.

Forrest and O’Reilly announced the news this morning. Ignite features a series of 5-minute talks, each consisting of 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. The Ignite series spread around the world through local groups after being embraced and built by geeks in the Seattle area.

Forrest, who will also continue leading PCH’s Highway1 hardware incubator, said via email that he approached O’Reilly about the acquisition. He and Pettis (who went on to co-found and lead MakerBot Industries) worked at O’Reilly when they started the Ignite series.

O’Reilly wasn’t actively looking to sell Ignite, Forrest said, but they agreed that it would be a good idea for Forrest to take the Ignite organization forward.

“Quite frankly I love Ignite,” Forrest explained. “There is nothing else that I’ve done in my life that gives me this much pride and joy. I had no idea where it was going to go when Bre and I threw that first, very casual event. When we found out others were doing them it was surprising. As it continued to grow I started to see Ignite as a way of bringing communities together and giving people a chance to rockstars. I want to keep doing that.”

The new company is called Ignite Talks PBC, and they’ve launched a new Ignite site. In addition to Forrest, who is now based in San Francisco, the company’s leaders are Seattle-based Carly Slater (head of growth) and technology head Stephen Lead, who is based in Sydney, Australia. O’Reilly is founding sponsor. Other sponsors are Foundry Group, Microsoft and PCH.

Here is GeekWire’s email Q&A with Forrest about the news.

Brady Forrest
Brady Forrest

Can you say anything about the terms (financial or otherwise) of the acquisition of Ignite from O’Reilly?

Brady Forrest: We’re not sharing the exact terms. However it was a very friendly discussion. O’Reilly has done an amazing job supporting Ignite over the years; I really appreciate it. They have Ignites at most of their events. O’Reilly & Ignite Talks PBC will be partners ongoing and everyone is very happy with the arrangement.

Does this result in any legal or practical change in the relationship between local Ignite groups and the overarching Ignite organization?

For the past several years it’s been a wild west for Ignite organizers. While nothing technically changes, we’re going to be expanding on the intention of stewardship that’s been growing over the last 10 years. Essentially that means creating a more responsive organizer community infrastructure, building a culture of quality and equity that best reflects the precedent of excellence set by local organizers so far.

Are you the sole owner of Ignite Talks PBC? Is it a for-profit venture or non-profit? 

As of right now, myself and members of the team are the owners. Our money is coming from my pocket and sponsors.

We are a mission-based for-profit company. I considered making us an NPO, but was concerned that it would be too limiting. PBC’s are a new way of incorporating a business. Kickstarter, Etsy, Patagonia – these are all PBCs. It gives a company the flexibility to make decisions that could hurt their profit.

Will you be running Ignite day-to-day in addition to running Highway1? Do you have a team working with you on Ignite?

Right now, Ignite Talks PBC is a team of 3. We’re all from Ignite organizers in our respective cities (SF, Seattle, Sydney). We also work quite closely with several volunteer Ignite Organizers. I expect to add a video team in the new year.

I will continue to run both Highway1 & Ignite. They are very complementary of each other. PCH is sponsoring Ignite as a way of demonstrating this support.

What are your long-term plans and aspirations for Ignite?

I want Ignite to be the way people learn public speaking. At a given Ignite event there are a mix of new and experienced speakers. That’s part of the power of the format; it levels the playing field.

Do you plan to create more of a media brand, a la Ted Radio Hour or a regular video/TV series?

Yes. There are thousands of Ignite talks every year. I think that showcasing the best ones will be broadly appealing. This is just the first you’ll be hearing from Ignite Talks PBC! We’ve got plans for the new year.

For more, read posts by O’Reilly and Forrest about the news.

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