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Rust Belt Rising # 10: Startup Weekend Day 3
Jun 23rd, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A Quest To Create A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.

 

– By Blake Glenn

 

It’s 5:05 pm. Another warm June day. I pull up into my old spot across from The Entrepreneur’s Center. On Saturday I found a space under a tree on a side street. It’s not a big tree. If it were human it would probably be an adolescent. But it’s large enough to provide some shady cover for the truck. And I’m the only one parked on there. So either I’m a genius to have found a hidden gem. Or I’m a fool because everyone else knows better.

I’m running later than I wanted but I’m still nearly an hour early. The building door’s locked with no one in sight. As I reach into my pants pocket and pull out my ancient communicator, I hear a roar of applause. Huh. I hope the presentations haven’t started already. Wasn’t it scheduled for 6:00 pm?

Since the door is locked I call Dave Best again. Dave is leading the team that produced Startup Weekend in Dayton. And they’ve been doing a great job for this first-time event in the city. Dave’s at the door in a blink of an eye. I mean literally. I look away momentarily and when I turn back he’s opening the door.

  • What the hell?
  • Does he have the super power of light speed?
  • What’s in that coffee they’ve been serving all weekend?
  • Can I have some?

 

Dave says the first presentation just started. Damn! I thought they started at 6:00 pm. Suddenly I go from being ultra-early to being a bit late. I apologize for my tardiness and we head down the now-familiar dimly-lit deserted hallway to the main staging room. I walk in to see a room full of bright eyes all glued to Roberto, a guy I chatted with Friday night before Suzie kicked things off. He’s giving the presentation for his team. And everyone appeared deeply engaged.

As I look around I notice more people in the room than on Friday. I loosely count about 40 to 45 people. There were about 30 to 35 people on Friday. Interesting. The room has gained a little weight. I grab some chicken wings, 3 or 4 hot mushrooms, a bottle of water and take a seat. Roberto completes his presentation about an app that will help people to track the freshness of their food and, hopefully, reduce waste. After Roberto completes his 5 minutes, he’s questioned by the judges. Each judge asks one question. They ask about things such as validating the idea, marketing and promotion, revenue streams, biggest challenges, … etc. This will repeat itself for each presentation.

Other ideas presented include:

  • An app to exchange business information
  • A candle holder that prevents house fires
  • A service to facilitate the process of conducting research
  • A web site for indie bands to cut out the middleman

 

After all of the presentations are complete, the judges are sequestered to a secure private room. There they will debate and decide on the top 2 ideas. The room allegedly has 7 levels of security, including an artificial intelligence-enhanced super android capable of laser-beaming a human into non-existence if they dare attempt entry without permission.

During this rather lengthy timeout, I have the opportunity to talk with several people about the event. At one point I step into the hallway with Paul, a member of the IgniteTech Meetup group. He has an idea of his own that he hopes will disrupt some aspect of the music industry. And he wonders how to get the money he needs just to create a basic prototype. Welcome to the club my man. It has a whole lot of members.

As I offer Paul some thoughts on the world of seed financing, I look up to see a small crowd of people heading our way at a brisk pace. The judges are back with their decisions. I imagine the judges being flanked on all sides by big, beefy Secret Service types sporting dark shades, ear pieces, and holstered semi-automatics. One of the organizers, Dave Caraway (aka Mr. Awesome), asks me to take the group picture at the end of the evening. I oblige.

Suzie Bureau steps back into her facilitator role. After congratulating all of the teams on their efforts, she hands out some ceremonial prizes to the non-winners. Then she makes the announcements everyone wants to hear.

  • 2nd Place … Business Bump. It’s the app idea for exchanging business information more easily.
  • 1st Place … Keep Fresh. This is the idea Roberto presented for tracking food freshness.

 

All of the teams take pictures. Then each of the Startup Weekend participants line up for a big group picture. I snap off a few with two different phones. There’s a big roar of exhausted excitement. There’s a collective sigh of relief. And then it’s over.

I stay around a little while speaking to a few more people. I watch the organizing team execute their cleanup duties with military precision. Signs, post-it notes, food, laptops, notebooks … all disappearing in rapid succession. Soon the staging area will revert back to its normal use as a fairly mundane training room. Only those who attended will know the extent to which the place was transformed in just a couple of days for this historic event. I’m really not trying to over-state things here. But it was the first time this event was held in Dayton. So in that sense it is, uh, historic.

I head out to my truck, wondering how this event, along with others past and future, may help to transform the regional tech startup community … if at all. Paul and I spot each other. He yells out that it was worth the $100 he handed over to participate. Now he’s more hyped than ever to launch his own idea. And maybe he’ll see me Thursday for the IgniteTech Happy Hour.

I reply “Hope so”, and bid adios. Ah, Good. My truck is still there. Guess I was a genius after all.

 

The End.

Or. Is it just … The Beginning?

 

 

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

 

Rust Belt Rising #9: Startup Weekend Day 2
Jun 22nd, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A Quest To Create A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.

– By Blake Glenn

 

It’s just about 12:00 pm on the nose. High noon. I’m running a little late. I meant to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier. But, as usual, life intervened.

Again I pull up across the street from The Entrepreneur’s Center, the epicenter of Startup Weekend Dayton. It’s a beautiful day. Bright. Sunny. An old Klingon warrior saying goes something like …

“It’s a good day to die!”

 

Well seriously, I’m not trying to die. And I’m not fighting any kind of battle that will end in carnage for either side. So my particular spin on this is:

“It’s a damned good day to support potential tech entrepreneur’s that are trying to create something that might one day become something special. But even if not, it’s a great community builder for the regional tech scene!”

 

Ok. I see it needs a little work. Maybe it needs a bit more brevity. But still. Those are my thoughts as I enter the building. The door’s locked so I have to call Dave Best, Chief Organizer for Dayton’s first Startup Weekend. He lets me in and and we chat briefly as we hurry down the long hallway to the main room for the weekend’s activities.

He tells me that the lunch speaker, Justin Bayer, just started a couple of minutes ago. I arrived at that time especially to hear Justin speak. Justin is the founder of a venture called Welcome to College. And I’ve heard him speak before. He was great in that performance. We also had a fascinating discussion on my “Outside The Valley” podcast show. He’s not a billionaire. He hasn’t done an IPO. His company is still finding its way. But man … this dude has great stories to tell about his business adventures the last 4 years. And, maybe more than any tech gazillionaire, he’s a much better fit for this group of future tech titans.

He’s going through much of what many of them will be going through as they launch, try to gain traction, turn in another direction (OK … Pivot damnit!), and attempt to hit a significant growth spurt. His stories are very relatable. Justin’s tales of serendipitous encounters with Tony Hsieh (Zappos founder) and others in his adventures in business is fascinating.

At the end. He gets a thunderous ovation.

After lunch, all of the teams head back to their war rooms to continue development of their ideas. Justin and I catch up on each other’s activities. I write up my blog post for Day 1. And then I’m off to speak to some of the teams. I learn that five teams exist. I get to talk to three of them. They have some interesting ideas around food freshness, exchanging biz information, and the music industry.

In the course of a weekend it’s impossible to go from zero to a fully formed, functional, tested product. But some of them will have a little code created for a basic prototype (minimally viable product or … MVP). Others will have fairly detailed mock ups backed by some market research and basic idea validation. And I think that’s the point really. Learning how to form teams, work in collaboration, and get to a pitch-ready story is the core of what the weekend is all about.

One challenge I note and discuss with a participant is the dearth of developer talent. This event serves as a microcosm for the region as more people hope to build out their tech experiments.

Is there enough available talent regionally to make Dayton a viable location?

 

As I head out into the near perfect early-Summer afternoon I can’t help but think about all of the people attending Startup Weekend that have hopes and dreams of creating something special one day.

  • Hopes
  • Dreams

 

That’s where it begins. Where it all ends up is anyone’s guess. But that’s the fun of going on any adventure.

Ah. The sun feels soooo damned good. What a beautiful day!

 

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

 

 

Rust Belt Rising #8: Startup Weekend Day 1!
Jun 21st, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

 

A Quest To Create A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.

– By Blake Glenn

 

It’s Friday June 20th …a little after 6:00 pm. I pull up in front of a tech incubator on the edges of Downtown Dayton, OH. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. It’s been raining on the drive over. And I’m dosed up on some allergy med I took about an hour prior. It’s the kind that induces a state of drowsiness that makes the victim appear to be an intoxicated zombie.

But I’m excited. You see, across the street at another tech incubator called The Entrepreneurs Center, there’s a first-time event happening in Dayton. It’s called Startup Weekend. And Dayton is getting its very first dose of this national franchise. As I ease into my parking space, out of the corner of my eye I notice a figure walking slowly on the sidewalk. He comes to a standstill several yards from the front of the truck. So I glance over to get  a better look. He appears to be 60-ish. He’s Slender. He has a dark baseball cap perched atop his head of gray hair and sports a long gray beard ….  Duck Dynasty style. A black patch is covering one eye. He appears to be a cross between an 1880’s California gold miner and a 1600’s Caribbean pirate. Huh. Interesting.

I lock the vehicle door and walk into the building. I’m greeted nicely by a lone gentleman standing behind a table of name tags.

“Welcome to Startup Weekend”!

 

I thank the nice man, grab my name tag and head to the night’s gathering spot. As I get closer to the room I hear the increasingly loud rumblings of excited people milling about. I count about 25 or so very excited people drinking beverages, connecting, introducing themselves, and wondering aloud what’s going to happen. I’m glad to see several people that are members of IgniteTech, a Meetup group based in Dayton that focuses on the tech startup scene.

After about 45 minutes of talking and networking, the night begins. A energetic, vivacious lady named Suzie Bureau (I’m not kidding!) is the facilitator. Suzie is a combination of no bull-shit tough Drill Sergeant and funny charismatic cult leader.  She facilitates us in a couple of exercise to break the ice and get the energy going.

  • A Rock-Paper-Scissors combat drill
  • A simulated pitch session

 

I don’t win the Rock-Paper-Scissors face-off.

And as I look around the room during these activities I spot the Gold miner Pirate. He’s at Startup Weekend to participate!

Then the pitches start. About 11 or 12 total. And the Gold miner Pirate pitches twice. Both are a bit rambling. And he seems nervous. But he’s doing it! The pitching is followed by a rambunctious scramble for votes. Each pitcher walks around with their signs hoping to attract enough votes to continue. Teams will be formed around the 6 ideas with the most votes.

After casting my four votes, I connect with a few more people … including a guy that lives in LA and works on a TV show. Maybe a good contact since my focus is  on creating digital media programming. And at about 9:15 pm I head out the door. It’s growing dark but not quite there yet. The evening air is breezy. It feels damned good. The rain has stopped. I think about the possibilities for the region’s tech scene. I see the fireflies lighting up. There  seem to be more than I’ve seen in years. Maybe after years of decline, these delicate creatures are making a comeback. They provided me plenty of Summer time childhood memories to reflect on. So I hope so.

I climb into the truck and glance at the sidewalk. No Gold miner Pirate this time. He’s still inside with the other hopeful entrepreneurs … forming a weekend startup team. I start the truck, smile and head for the highway.

 

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

 

 

Rust Belt Rising #7: Rise Of The Silicon Imitators!
Jun 1st, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

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

 

– By Blake Glenn

 

Ok. Let’s see if I can get my head around this. There’s:

  • Silicon Prairie
  • Silicon Forest
  • Silicon Alley
  • Silicon Beach

 

And there’s also:

  • Silicon Hill
  • Silicon Mountain
  • Silicon Slopes
  • The New Silicon Valley (Several in contention)

 

And there are many more still, one of which is close to my heart … Silicon Rust Belt. Being a baby of the rust belt I find this one especially intriguing. I don’t think it’s gained quite the traction or panache of some of the other infamous Silicon brand imitators yet. And it might be a bit of an oxymoron too. After all, does silicon actually rust? Don’t know.

If you combine Silicon Mountain and Silicon Slopes you create Silicon Mountain Slopes. Such a combination would clear the muddied field a little and make for a potentially powerful tech monstrosity. And I bet the view and the skiing would be absolutely fabulous.

And Silicon Beach has at least two contenders – Los Angeles and Miami. I expect soon there’ll be a war between these two international meccas over the use of the term. And this would be appropriate. You see Miami is sort of the East Coast version of LA. They share some key attributes.

They’re both sunny, diverse in population (though Miami is much smaller), right on the water, a favorite site for film and TV shoots, and full of celebrities. LA has Kobe. Miami has LeBron. Perhaps to further distinguish its own unique Silicon identity, Miami could modify the tagline just a bit to … Silicon South Beach.

Coast Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I digress. I find this “Silicon Valley imitator” phenomenon to be quite odd and yet fascinating. It’s kind of amazing really. Several cities or regions around the country have repeated the same recipe. Simply insert the word Silicon as your first word in a phrase, follow it with one to three additional descriptors (mountain, alley, beach, or Mountain Beach Alley … etc.), and voila … you have instant branding as an emerging mega-hub of tech innovation!

And it’s not just national. This is a truly global phenomenon. There exist cities/regions on every continent that are quickly taking to the Silicon Something brand identity movement.

Even some regions that have yet to take up a prominent Silicon nickname can still get in the game by referring to themselves as “The Silicon Valley of”. As in the Silicon Valley of:

  • Drones (or unmanned aireal vehicles – uh, UAVs)
  • Digital media
  • Clean energy tech
  • Robots capable of winning Jeopardy
  • Health tech
  • Batmobiles
  • Massive male genital growth enhancement technology

 

It’s branding not as the next Silicon Valley per se. But as THE Silicon Valley of a specific much smaller niche.

Genius! I mean REAL DAMNED GENIUS!!!

I really do see why so many regions want to position themselves as the next, newest, best-est emerging tech center of something. They’re frantic to establish an identity in the ever expanding world of regional tech hubs. But (and this is my inability to delineate higher thought processes) I just can’t bring myself to see how the repeated steal…, uh I mean borrowing, of one distinctive word will distinguish one region from another … or from the reigning tech king itself – THE Silicon Valley.

Now I don’t want to be the wet blanket on this national tech mecca party. I want to be a believer. I do. But you see, off the top of my head I can list some potential major problems with this approach.

1. First, referring to yourself as Silicon anything immediately draws comparisons with the original Silicon King.

With very few exceptions (Boston, LA, Seattle, NY City … maybe) most of these cities/regions have small, even miniscule, amounts of angel funding, VC, available startup-ready tech talent, and wealth creation produced or in the pipeline in comparison to Silicon Valley. One measure of where a region is is how many billion dollar tech startup cash outs the region has produced in the last 15 years. How about cash outs of $100 million plus? Another measure is the number of patents produced and turned into viable ventures.

 

2. Secondly, it’s just not very original, unique, or frankly … INNOVATIVE.

In my most humble opinion, any region that tags the Silicon moniker as part of its branding statement is attempting to be viewed as an area that’s seen as innovative. But, just playing Devil’s advocate here, what’s less innovative than simply stapling Silicon onto the front end of your tag line? And now-a-days, “innovation” has been used so much it’s been almost reduced to a laughable cliche. So how about we band together to create an innovative new term to replace it.

 

3. Thirdly, I’ll phrase this as a simple question. Is silicon really at the heart of the products your region produces?

Yes, most tech products do have some form of silicon in them because of the electronic chips that comprise the delicate intestinal tract of those products. And of course apps, games, and other software run on silicon-based products.

However … silicon isn’t usually the core product produced. And even if it is, see number 1 above.

But here are a few branding suggestions that I really think will mitigate the Silicon Valley comparisons, create a unique brand identity, and really help your region to stand out from all the other Silicon imitators.

  • The Drone Belt, uh I mean The UAV Belt
  • Digital Media Mountain
  • Batmobile Alley
  • PC Prairie
  • Software Slopes
  • Clean Energy Canyon
  • Health Tech Highway
  • Big Data Boulevard

 

I know. Genius right!

You’re very welcome. No problemo.

Over the next few weeks I think it will be interesting to take a closer look at some of the Silicon Valley imitators and learn a little more about them. In order to include the global factor in this phenomenon I’ll also look at some outside-the-U.S. locations too.

Stay tuned.

And let me know what you think about the growing Silicon imitation branding phenomenon.

Tata!

 

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

 

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

 

Ride 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.

Build your connections.

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

 

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