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Rust Belt Rising #4: A Pivotal Moment
Mar 19th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

 

A quest to create a vibrant tech startup scene in a traditional, conservative, hard-core rust belt town.

(Originally posted on January 31, 2014)

— By Blake Glenn 

 

World English Dictionary

Pivot:

 — vb

to turn on or as if on a pivot

1610s, from Fr., from O.Fr. pivot “hinge, pivot” (12c.), of uncertain origin. The verb is 1841, from the noun. Figurative sense of “central point” is recorded from 1813.

 

Ride The Rocket

 

Back in the 9th grade I played running back for my Junior High School football team. There were no middle schools back in those days … at least not in my city. I’d not played running back before. But I was very fast. Fast as a rocket.  And strong too. But since I was a virgin at the running back position, I hadn’t yet mastered some of the required basic “running back” mechanics.

 

For instance, switching the ball from one arm to the other depending on the position of the opposing player(s) was a fundamental tenant of the running back. Another was sticking out your arm to ward off a would-be tackler. This is also referred to as the ole “stiff-arm”. And a third was to keep your legs moving after the initial impact of getting hit. You’ll pick up an extra yard or two for sure.

Anyway, despite being a novice I was still pretty good. You might say I was the Jim Brown of my time. Oh sorry. Maybe that’s too old school. After all, he did retire from pro football in the late 1960’s to become a movie action hero. Ok let’s say I was, uhm, the Adrian Peterson of Junior High football.

One moment in particular comes to mind. We were playing our hated cross-town rivals in the first game of the season. We’d won the league the year before by beating them. And all of the expert analysts and reporters at the Junior High Sports Network (JSPN) knew it would be one of us that would win the league again.

On this particular play I was handed the ball, intending to go through the right side of the line. But their defense had stacked up that side of the field. So seeing defenders everywhere, I quickly spun around, i.e. “pivoted”, and ran to the other side. This took our adversary completely by surprise. And my blinding road runner-like speed (beep beep) took me into a wide open field.

 

Blue Sky

 

There was just green grass and blue sky between me and the goal line. Uh, that is until I saw one of their defensive backs making a beeline for me. I knew he had the angle. And a collision was inevitable. But as a power runner I lived for collisions. I loved to run over SOB’s that dared to have the audacity to position themselves between me and the magical holy grail that is the goal line.

 

 

As he closed the distance, I looked deep into his eyes … and he into mine. What I saw invigorated me immensely. When I stared deep into the eyes of my opponent I saw fear. Not just a little fear. A whole 18-wheel truck load of it. His eyes were wide as the moon and he seemed to be shaking a bit. I’m not sure exactly what he saw when he locked eyes with me. But I imagine he saw a mean, ornery, growling, snorting, wild-eyed predator, running full speed, with glowing red eyes … smoke coming from my flaring nostrils.

 

Angry Wolf

I think in that moment I had “crazy eyes”. You’ve seen those. You know … Charles Manson, Donald Trump, or maybe an ex- girlfriend or boyfriend that just realized you’re a complete jerk. As the collision unfolded … in slow motion … like the movies, I lowered my head and shoulder, bracing for impact.

KABOOM! BABAM! Our collision made a loud thunderous noise  that reverberated out at least 100 miles from the epicenter, shattering car and store windows all around. To this day the aftershocks still shake the earth a little on occasion.

 

 

 

My opponent went low, diving in desperation for my lower body, reaching up, flinging his hands, and catching my feet as he hit the ground. I stumbled for a few yards, trying to stay on my feet. But I eventually went down with a thud. There was no touchdown. But at least I’d made a huge gain with my running. I must have gained 30 or 40 yards. Or … at least I WOULD HAVE if I’d actually held onto the ball.

Remember the basics of switching the ball to the opposite hand and doing a stiff-arm?

Well I didn’t. And I lost the ball. It was recovered by the other team. And we subsequently lost the game and the league title. The ghost of that moment has haunted my nightmares for more than 30 years. Guess I wasn’t so much Jim Brown after all huh.

I tell you this story to say that, for a number of reasons, we had to “pivot” on Civic Hackathon 2014. It will not be held on February 22nd after all. We were hit with a low level of interest from programmers among other things. We stumbled, dropped the ball, and went down with a soft thud!

 

Networking

 

But all isn’t lost. Instead of the hackathon, we’ll pull together a tech mini-summit. We’ll gather up a small cadre of area tech group leaders to pow wow on the tech scene in the Dayton, OH region. It will be small. It will be informal. But it will be for sure. I’ve counted 17 or 18 groups with about 1,700 total members … all focused on some aspect of technology.

These are Meetup groups, LinkedIn groups … etc. Since many people belong to multiple groups, the actual number of individuals is lower. But it’s still significant.

 

 

So we’ll come together, pitch our tech groups, discuss the area tech scene, and tour Dayton’s Tech Town. I think this may be a first event of its kind. Now I don’t see a pivot coming for this event. But then ya never know.

You’ve always got to be prepared with a good stiff-arm … right?

 

The Looney Man

 

    Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive   blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).

If you dare, he can be reached the old school way …  blake@LooneyExecutive.com

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P.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  

Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas. Build your connections.

 Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!

 

Rust Belt Rising #3: Genesis Of A Hackathon
Mar 19th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A quest to create a vibrant tech startup scene in a traditional, conservative, hard-core rust belt town.

(Originally posted on January 15, 2014)

— By Blake Glenn 

 

Coffee CupOn a brisk Autumn morning in November of 2013, a small group of tech startup enthusiasts met at the Boston Stoker Coffee house in downtown Dayton, OH. These brave souls included Alejandro Clavel, Dave Caraway, Sam Boutros, and Blake Glenn. All present were members of IgniteTech, a Meetup Group focused on igniting and building a vibrant tech startup community in SW Ohio.

They all braved the chilly temperatures for a singular purpose – to discuss the possibility of producing a hackathon event right there in Dayton. This idea had been kicking around IgniteTech for a few months already. But now seemed to be the right time to strike. At this instance, more people expressed a real willingness to put in the hard work and effort to mold a raw concept into an actual reality. So now seemed the time to head off into the unknown hackathon frontier.

Ideas were kicked around, brainstorms came and went, minds went into hyper over-drive, a cloud of thinking-dust blanketed 4 square blocks of downtown Dayton as the participants parried back and forth on ideas. Then, as if by divine province, the team focused on the core idea of forming an alliance with an existing organization that had solved the hackathon puzzle and might welcome a collaboration with IgniteTech.

Happy PC    As fate would have it, Dave worked with the woman that had launched an organization called Code for America. Code for America produces events that help to apply technology to solving local civic problems and challenges. And again as fate would have it, Code for America was sprinting rapidly toward its annual Code Across America event to be held on February 21 – 23, 2014. The team realized this was an opportunity to birth their first hackathon.

Thus was born Code for Dayton, a local brigade (chapter) of Code for America. Code for Dayton would focus on applying tech solutions to Dayton region civic problems. And IgniteTech would ally with Code for Dayton/Code for America to produce its very first hackathon … Civic Hackathon 2014. So the idea was birthed. The stage was set. Alliances were being formed. The players were poised. Now it was time for the real work to begin!

Would this idea live … or would it die?

 

Ride The Rocket

 

Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive ( Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).

If you dare, he can be reached the old school way …  blake@LooneyExecutive.com

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

P.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  

Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas. Build your connections.

 Join us on this adventure. And help us to create a great story!

 

 

 

Rust Belt Rising #2: There’s Life In The Desert
Mar 18th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A quest to create a vibrant tech startup scene in a traditional, conservative, hard-core Rust Belt town.

 

(Originally posted on November 13, 2013)

– By Blake Glenn (aka Blakey G.)

 

The Field

 

Many years ago I was sent to an outpost in the western U.S. desert. I was on assignment for a job as an electronic engineer. And prior to my arrival I’d been given many wondrous tips from co-workers.

This wisdom offered to me had been  passed down over the centuries to all forlorn travelers that had dared to challenge the high desert kingdom.

 

 

These included gems such as:

  • It was hot as Hell during the day and cold as Hades at night (wait … aren’t Hell and Hades the same thing?).
  • Yes, tumbleweed does exist. And it’s been known to roll up humans on occasion.
  • Don’t be afraid of the lizards. They don’t eat people. Well, at least not often enough to be afraid of ‘em.
  • If you’re bitten by a scorpion don’t you fret none. Your death will be quick and relatively painless.
  • If you hear something move that sounds like a toddler’s rattle shaking, turn quickly and proceed in the opposite direction.

 

But what if I’m not sure from which direction the rattling noise came?

Answer – “Uh, well you’re just S!$t Out of Luck dude!”

 

High angle view of railroad tracks running through desert settingI was headed to the middle of the Mojave Desert about 75 miles north east of Los Angeles. I expected a barren, unforgiving wasteland filled with the shimmering skulls of those who’d tried, and failed, to conquer its terrain. But I was mildly surprised. There were two decent-sized twin cities in the middle of nowhere – Lancaster and Palmdale. You might say they were the desert’s version of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

I knew the experience of actually living in a desert would be different. And I like different. But it was the desert. So I was prepared for the worst. However, I didn’t realize how much I’d enjoy my time there. I really came to like it. And often, during the long drive to LA or the much shorter drive to Edwards Air Force Base, I’d peer across the desolate desert terrain filled with nothing … save for sand, dust, and mirages.

 

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Except it wasn’t actually filled with nothing. There were signs of life everywhere if you really looked.

There were Joshua trees. These are  strange, alien looking things that seem to have shrubs protruding from their limbs. But these bizarre vegetation are sacred to the indigenous desert people. There were Cactus (or is it cactuses or cactai?). There were  road runners. I was truly disappointed each time I saw those little skinny birds to not hear a “Beep Beep” or see an angry coyote hot on its heels straddled atop a sure-to- malfunction AMCE rocket.

I say of all this to say that Dayton, OH, while not necessarily a complete desert in tech startup land, is a bit challenged when it comes to tech startups with high-growth potential. You know … the kind that can attract angel and VC funds. Bootstrapping is fine, and frankly a necessity for the overwhelming majority of new ventures. But the availability of ample equity investment is crucial to really growing a tech startup community.

But there are signs of life!

On November 4th, a group of local entrepreneurs banded together to host an interesting event in downtown Dayton. It was called the Ventreprenure Marketplace (Ventreprenure … funny name but catchy). The event brought together seven ventures (mostly tech startups) in a showcase fashion to pitch themselves to potential angel and VC investors. It was 1-part showcase and 1-part pitch. Since there’s not a large VC presence in the SW Ohio region (Cincinnati-Dayton), the organizers decided to bring investors to them.

Professionals WalkingOver 90 people attended Ventreprenure Marketplace. And it was covered by a local TV station and the local paper. This event was a much-needed sign of life in a place where existing and potential high-growth tech entrepreneurs can have a little difficulty finding their footing, partly because more early stage and growth investment is needed.

As an added bonus, I was also on site interviewing a handful of attendees for my Outside The Valley podcast show. And while I didn’t get to see the pitches (because I was busy interviewing), I was able to get a real good pulse of the crowd. And it was a vibrant pulse indeed. This event seems to have generated a good bit of excitement. It may have been the first of its kind (or at least one of the very few). Now let’s hope the momentum continues. I think Ventreprenure Marketplace is meant to be an annual event. Let’s hope so.

 

At this point I don’t know if any of the startups have received funding commitments or new interest because of the event. But even if not, it’s a very good step in the right direction.

And while SW Ohio may not have rattlers, tumbleweed, Joshua trees, and road runners, we do have some do-it-yourselfers that are gung-ho on creating more of another type of life … tech startups. The signs are popping up. And that’s good. Damned good.

 

That’s all for now folks. Beep Beep!

 

Ride The RocketBlake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive ( Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).

If you dare, he can be reached at blake@LooneyExecutive.com

 

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The RocketP.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas.

 Join us on this adventure. And help us create a great story!

 

Rust Belt Rising #1: Seasons Change
Mar 16th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A quest to create a vibrant tech startup scene in a traditional, conservative, hard-core Rust Belt town.

(Originally posted on November 13, 2013)

— By Blake Glenn (aka Blakey G.)

 

The House

It’s a sunny crisp Fall late-afternoon. The beautiful multi-colored leaves cover the ground. And more glide helplessly to the earth as a slight breeze sweeps through the branches and sets them free. Some of the trees stand completely bare. Others stubbornly hold on to the last vestiges of leaf life for a few more days, hours, even minutes. The high-branch bird nests, once hidden, now are exposed to the world. Some, set free by the wind or falling branches, free-fall to earth and land with a hushed thud.

Unfortunately I can’t tell a Maple from a Fern from an Oak. I just know its Fall … or Autumn as referred to by the elite upper crest set that likely attended private boarding school with Winston and Skylar and play Cricket during European family vacations, or as we in America know it – Miami.

All of the trees will be without their clothing soon, with the exception of the Evergreens of course, those lucky bastards. It’s a change of season. The trees die out only to be reborn in the Spring. But they’re not really completely dead. There’s still some life. They’re just a bit, uhm, dormant. Most of the trees will weather (no pun intended) a cold, blistery Winter, only to spring back to life in a few months. Pun intended.

And so it is also with rust belt cities and towns.

  • Detroit
  • Pittsburgh
  • Cleveland
  • Buffalo
  • Cincinnati
  • Milwaukee
  • Dayton

Industry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course there are many other cities already occupying a space in the Rust Belt Hall of Fame. But the cities mentioned above represent some of the best known examples. All of them have shed metaphorical leaves – middle class working people, good-paying jobs, home-grown companies, valuable new college grads, and even entire industries.

Now, in the aftermath of years-long desolate nuclear winters, all of these once-proud industrial heartland powerhouses are attempting to not just survive, but to make significant comebacks. And indeed, signs of life are popping up in each of these places from the unlikeliest of sectors – Hi-tech.

And that brings me to the point of this post. I’m living in SW Ohio, a region that includes Dayton and Cincinnati. I live much closer to Dayton. And while I had very low expectations and no intent of staying when I came back here, I’m now on a difficult adventure to gather up like-minded comrades to see if we can build a dynamic tech startup community in the region. I’m talking the kind of tech startups that have high-growth potential and might possibly attract the roving eyes of angel and venture capital suitors. I’m talking tech startups with more of a Silicon Valley, Boston, or Seattle flavor to them.

 

Man On JourneySo in January of 2013 I launched IgniteTech in Dayton. IgniteTech is a Meetup Group with one over-riding mission … help to launch more tech startups into the frontiers of business space.

We started out with a monthly happy hour to bring like-minded people together. Then we launched a monthly pitching and co-working session. And we’ll launch more projects soon. Currently there are about 90 people that joined the group.

But I’m still observing closely to see if the task is even possible. It’s a task not for the faint of heart or the meek. Many brave comrades will fall during this journey. Some will run away like Sir Robin of Monty Python’s Holy Grail quest. And a very few will make it to the mountain top.

As it stands … I don’t know if this dragon can be slain. I’m somewhere in the range of cautiously optimistic. And it’s a long-term proposition (at least 10 years). But an event called Ventreprenure Marketplace was held in Dayton on November 4th. Upon getting a polite request I conducted some interviews for my new podcast show, Outside The Valley, at the event. And it stoked my optimism just a little bit. More of my thoughts on Ventreprenure very soon.

For now I’ll periodically write this series, “Rustbelt Rising”, to chronicle the good, the bad, the ugly, the fun, and the just freaking looney in my quest to connect with like-minded comrades to build a dynamic tech startup culture in a hard-core rust belt region. I don’t know where this is going. And that’s part of the adventure. I do hope to reach the mountain top with the lucky few. But should I fall to the great dragon along the way, let it be said that I came … I saw … I tried my damndest to conquer … and had one hell-of-a-ride too!

 

Ride The RocketBlake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via  The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive ( Because there must be SOME explanation … right?).

If you dare, he can be reached at blake@LooneyExecutive.com

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The Rocket

P.S. – If you’re really interested in growing the tech startup scene in SW Ohio, you’ll want to join the IgniteTech Meetup Group.  Join the group. Come out to our events. Bring your energy and ideas.

 

Join us on this adventure. And help us create a great story!

 

 

We’re Baaaack!
Mar 5th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

The StoryOk. Here’s the short story of The Looney Executive’s brief exit from the land of blogging.

At the beginning of February I attempted to install a new version of WordPress, along with updates for a few plugins too. By the way,  should plugin be hyphenated … as in “plug-in”?

The WordPress update went swimmingly well. And I just flew through the plugin updates. Everything was great! So damned easy right? Right? RIGHT?

Red DevilBut of course it was easy – at least until I logged in and tried to access the administrative functions of the blog. In other words, I couldn’t do a damned thing except log in. That was it. And I know this because I tried everything I knew to fix it.

“Everything I knew” actually meant very little. Because frankly I don’t know very much about WordPress. So after a couple of days struggling with this, having night terrors, uncontrollable sweating, and a haunting feeling that somebody was watching me, eventually I came to a tough conclusion.

I had to re-install the WordPress software from scratch!

This meant I’d lose all of my blog posts, comments, plugin settings … EVERYTHING! You see,  I’d not been backing up automatically like the normal  semi-intelligent person would be. But I did have one good idea. I copied all of my posts into a Word file before blowing up the current site.

Yea baby!

Fire in the hole!

Fire in the hole!

So I proceeded, quite delicately, with the re-installation of WordPress. The install was followed by a series of sudden and violent cyber explosions.

 

BABOOM!

BAM!

KAPOW!

Actually I had to re-install twice. So the explosions repeated themselves. But instead of rushing to start blogging again, I decided to focus on a couple of other pressing matters first. I also went through the process of planning out the next evolution of the blog. All of that – addressing other issues, planning the blog evolution – took a little time. And it was time well-spent.

The PenSo that brings me to today. In addition to writing new blog posts, over the next few weeks I’ll be adding many of the previous posts. While I’ll not re-post all of them, I will re-post the ones I have a particular fondness for.

 

So buckle up baby. The Looney Executive is baaaaaack in Cyberspace.

Whew Hoooo!

P.S.  For those of you with a nagging suspicion that unseen eyes are following you … enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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