Millennial Trains Project Rolls through Denver

The Millennial Trains Project is an incubator for the Millennial Generation on rails. It just stopped in Denver for 30 hours of mentoring, mingling and working on the participants' crowdfunded entrepreneurial projects.
The Millennial Trains Project chugged into Denver on Sun. Aug. 11 and rolled east the following evening, but in the short time in between, the 24 millennial entrepreneurs who are touring the country on rails got a nice dose of Denver -- and a picture-perfect introduction to the city.

"When we arrived, there was a short thunderstorm followed by an extremely radiant, vibrant double rainbow," says Millennial Trains Project Founder and CEO Patrick Dowd.

Next the group, which was hosted by the Downtown Denver Partnership and Something Independent, hit Coors Field to watch the Rockies dispatch the Pirates, followed by a visit to Infinite Monkey Theorem to meet Ben Parsons for a crash course on winemaking and entrepreneurialism -- "a great learning experience," says Dowd -- followed by a pool party at TAXI.

Monday brought an early breakfast aboard the decoupled passenger car the group is calling home for 10 days on its trip from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. After a follow-up meeting at Galvanize, participants then took the day to work on their projects.

The 24 Millennial participants, aged 18 to 34, each crowdfunded their work with at least $5,000 as a prerequisite. Projects range from next-generation journalism to health campaigns to energy innovation.

Ann Yang, a soon-to-be junior majoring in international relations at Georgetown University who's from Boulder, is on board working on The Joy Project, a journalism initiative aimed at sparking a conversation between Millennials and their elders.

Yang, 20, is making short documentaries covering conversations from seniors who lived through the wake of the Great Depression to Millennials making their through the days following the Great Recession.

"It's a journalism project documenting a social experiment," says Yang. "It's supposed to foster intergenerational dialogue."

Yang shot the first such conversation in San Francisco and the second in Denver, with a goal of a series of short films on an online hub featuring "stories about people taking risks to do what they love," she explains. Of her first shoot, she adds, "These two people who had never met each other were talking like they'd known each other their entire lives."

Yang says she was intrigued by Dowd's concept when she heard of through 1776 in Washington, D.C., and rapidly raised more than $5,000 to participate. "I think it's an extraordinary idea: building a community on a train."

Also on board with Yang and her Millennial peers are 14 staffers, including a pair of chefs who source local food at every stop, and mentors on board for every leg. Sponsors that helped fund the trip include Bombardier, but Dowd says crowdfunding provided most of the budget. "Over 1,000 people donated," he says.

Dowd says he was inspired by a journey on rails that he took through India as a Fulbright scholar. Another inspiration hit while he subsequently worked in investment banking in New York: Occupy Wall Street.

"I thought there was a more positive way to effect change," he says. He calls the group's nightly Pioneer's Journey session "a practical guide to purpose-based leadership" for participants.

Dowd says Denver was an ideal stop for the Millennial Trains Project. "We really love Denver because it's a combination of the entrepreneurial, creative, forward-thinking energy our train is all about, but it's also about the history and heritage that trains are all about," he explains. "Denver is a city that combines both of those perfectly."

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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