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Rustbelt Resurrection?
Feb 15th, 2017 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, adventures, and insights on the world of business!

— By Blake Glenn

 

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Hello 2017!

It’s my first post of 2017. I’ve been away a little while. During my long hiatus I helped a family member close a deal to sell a property, moved many heavy items,  took some much needed rest, discovered I need shoulder surgery (after moving many heavy items), and Donald Trump was elected President of the U.S. All of those things are true.

All. Of. THEM.

But in my near endless quest for uncovering interesting items happening in the business world, I came across an opinion piece in USA Today written by Steve Case, co-founder of AOL. For the last two years, through his Rise Of The Rest tour, Case has crisscrossed the U.S. in search of tech startup communities beyond Silicon Valley, Boston and New York City. In previous posts I refer to such cities and regions as “Outside The Valley”.

In any case, Case has spent time in a few cities that have been devastated by the decline of industrial age industries. And he has some interesting points to make about the growth of tech startups in there. Some of those key points include:

 

  • Globalization and technology are irreversible forces
  • Massachusetts, New York, and California account for 80% of venture capital investment
  • Responsibility for changing the funding dynamic starts with Silicon Valley and NY tech leaders and venture capitalists
  • Rise of the Rest cities are often too risk-averse and lack the fearlessness of Silicon Valley
  • Nascent entrepreneurial communities are often fragmented
  • Government, legacy companies and tech need to invest in unleashing America’s creativity

 

I just want to comment briefly about some of his points. First, I understand his belief that VCs need to redirect their investment resources to non-traditional cities. In fact, it may make good business sense to scour the entire country seeking out investment opportunities rather than just a select three or four cities. But that takes time, effort, and connections even for large VC firms.

So why would a VC seek out tech startups in, say, Dayton, OH, if there doesn’t already exist a strong tech startup community led by entrepreneurs? It’s the responsibility of the entrepreneurs in those regions to build their communities into viable, attractive cites whether VCs recognize them or not.

Case mentions that many cities are too risk-averse and lack fearlessness. As someone that led a tech startup Meetup group for 3 years in Dayton, I can testify to that fact. The mentality, not just of the institutions and general community, but of the people claiming to be entrepreneurs can be so damned oppressively conservative and failure-averse.

Finally, Case makes a good point about the fragmentation within many tech communities. While I led that tech startup group I attempted to organize a gathering for all leaders of regional tech groups. While my group focused specifically on tech startups there were many other groups focused on some particular technology or tech-related expertise. I contacted leaders from 17 or 18 groups in SW Ohio. We only had about five groups represented. To top the cake, the majority didn’t even respond to my invitation, including at least 3 that I already knew or had met previously. Not even a freakin’ no – just silence. And I sent at least two notices.

What Case found out during his Rise Of The Rest tour is what I learned during my three years of Meetup group dictatorship:

 

Cities with a traditional industrial base or dependence on a very narrow range of declining industries need a lot of time, patience, vodka and Tylenol as they seek to re-invent themselves into emerging tech startup hubs.

 

It’s been a little over a year since I shuttered IgniteTech, the tech startup group I founded. Over the next few weeks I’ll start posting my reflections and that adventure.  I think I’ll call it “Surviving The Rustbelt”. Catchy title huh. Then again maybe not. I’m not completely sure I’ve survived it yet. Can someone pleeeaasseee hand me a bottle of Vodka. Actually … better make it the whole case. It’s gonna be a long story.

 

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, I can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com

 

P.S.  I’m actively recruiting test contestants for my business game show experiment. Interested? Please contact me so I can add you to the player pool!

 

 

Rustbelt Rising #15: The Demise of IgniteTech
Feb 18th, 2016 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Rust Belt Rising … An Epic Quest To Build A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.

— by Blake Glenn

 

I’m back. After a months-long break of not writing anything, I’m getting back in gear. It happens. Sometimes we must step back and take a break. We have to refresh. So many things were going on I felt the need to deep-freeze the writing for a while. But I enjoyed the holiday season and I hope you did too. Although it seems to come and go so much faster now that I’m in my middle years. I know time doesn’t change. It’s our perception of it that does.

Then again … maybe that’s not true at all. I’ve been watching the rebooted X-Flies series. Strange and unbelievable cases those FBI agents try to solve. And now that I think about it, I have a strange theory. Maybe time IS actually accelerating.  It seems like just yesterday I was on a college campus partying and working through an engineering program in Norfolk, VA. But maaaybeee … it really was yesterday. Maybe someone – or some thing – did something to me to make time accelerate several years in just a few hours.

I think my DNA-embedded neutronic positrons have been activated diametrically, which causes an acceleration of the time-space continuum on an individual basis. This was thought to be complete conjecture by the established scientific community, nothing more than voodoo science. But it’s the only plausible explanation. And that would certainly explain a lot indeed.  It’s a good thing I have Mulder and Scully on speed dial.

In any case, since I’ve last written, a lot has happened in the business world that, as usual, I have some thoughts on. And I have a few more stories to tell too.

One of those stories is my decision to pull the plug on IgniteTech. IgniteTech was a group I launched on Meetup.com in 2013. It was an experiment to see if it was possible to create a viable, energetic, grass-roots driven tech startup scene in the Dayton, OH region. You see Dayton is a hard-core rustbelt town. It’s also a hard-core military town, with one of the largest U.S. Air Force bases located in the region. And the culture of these two influences is very strongly reflected in the regional institutions and the population. When I returned here a few years ago, there was no movement to build a grass-roots driven tech startup scene.

 

So is it possible to create a dynamic tech startup scene in Dayton?

 

That was the question I wondered as I launched IgniteTech. Well the short answer (or the short-term answer) is … no. It’s not possible, at least not right now. There simply doesn’t exist a strong concentration of past, current and potential founders that have the motivation, the will, to make that happen. There’s just very little energy focused on building a great tech startup scene. On top of that, there’s not a dynamic support system (existing institutions) that helps to foster such ideas.

And though the regional institutions also lack enthusiasm for creating a dynamic tech startup scene, the situation isn’t primarily their fault. Grassroots is about people making things happen for themselves. IgniteTech was about building a grassroots movement. And the people it was meant to help simply didn’t demonstrate a motivation to build something. But there is an upside. There actually are a very small handful of people (2 or 3 that I know of) working diligently to make something happen. And if their enthusiasm can recruit a few more people committed to the tech startup scene, maybe in a few years we’ll see some significant progress.

In my last “Rustbelt Rising” post last November, I wasn’t sure if anyone else would step into the fray to continue IgniteTech and take it to the next level. No one did. After I sent the farewell notice, four or five people responded with nice words. But not a single person even inquired about how to keep it going. That, in a nutshell, is the story of the current grassroots tech startup movement in Dayton.

Suffice it to say I’ll have a lot more to post about my IgniteTech (mis-)adventure in the near future. Check out this interesting short piece on what it takes to create a tech startup scene.

 

 

Now I’m off on a new set of adventures:

  • Developing a business game show (live event)
  • Exercising my speaking chops
  • Launching a new business talk show
  • And starting on a scripted web series

 

And hopefully by the next post I’ll have connected with Mulder and Scully to solve my time-acceleration issues.

Wish me luck.

 

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.  I’m actively recruiting test contestants for my game show experiment. Interested? Please contact me so I can add you to the pool.

 

 

The Best Startup Cities
Nov 17th, 2015 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, and insights on the world of business!

— by Blake Glenn

 

While playing around on the Internet the other day and going down deep rabbit hole after deep rabbit hole, I came across an interesting piece of information on startups. It’s a Ranking of the top 40 metro areas measured by startup activity. It was created by the Kauffman Foundation.

The organization does lots of research on startups. At the time I was looking at some links about tech startups. And through a series of link-following incidents I bumped into this report. I’m not certain this Kauffman list is tech startup-centric. But even if it’s not focused on tech, it’s still pretty interesting.

 

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits of information:

  • Silicon Valley (Santa Clara-San Jose-Sunnyvale) isn’t #1, it’s #3
  • California and Texas dominate the top 10
  • California has 6 metros in the top 25, four in the top 10 – San Jose (3), LA (4), San Francisco (6), San Diego (9), Riverside (18), Sacramento (23)
  • Texas has four metros on the list, 3 in the top ten – Austin (1), Houston (8), San Antonio (10), Dallas (15)

 

** GUESS THAT MEANS GO WEST … AND SOUTHWEST PEOPLE!

 

  • Highly touted emerging tech startup hub Boulder, CO isn’t on the list, unless it’s included in the Denver metro area
  • At #12 Columbus is the top ranked Ohio city and Mid-West city (technically Ohio is really Mid-East but we’ll go with tradition)
  • The next ranked Mid-West city is Chicago (21)
  • Rustbelt cities dominate the bottom 10 – Cincinnati (32), Cleveland (35), Detroit (36), St. Louis (38), Milwaukee (39), Pittsburgh (40)
  • Another metro pretty close to Dayton, Indianapolis, ranks at #28
  • A super-region that includes Columbus, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis would be great for Dayton since it sits geographically just about in the center.
  • Pittsburgh ranks lower than the other rust-belt cities on the list … that’s a little surprising since it has been cited as a great example of rustbelt renewal
  • The Washington, DC metro ranks at #30 … such a low rank for the capitol is like totally surprising … totally

 

There are many other ways to rank startup metros too:

  • Number of startups receiving venture capital
  • Amount of total VC invested
  • Number of IPOs
  • Number of cash-outs reaching $100 Mil (+)
  • Number of executive assistants, non-executive employees, janitors, and corporate dog-walkers – I mean canine pacing engineers – achieving millionaire status due to stock options

 

Also, if you’re one of the former Industrial Age powerhouses now girding for a revival and relevancy in this Information Age, I’m not sure if you should be ecstatic just to be included on the list at all, or if you should be horrified for ranking so low.

As I come across other startup lists, I’ll be sure to share.

 

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

 

Rustbelt Rising #14: Part II
Sep 15th, 2015 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Rust Belt Rising … An Epic Quest To Build A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.

— by Blake Glenn

 

Every adventure must come to an inevitable conclusion!

 

Apathy

1. Absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.

2. Lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.

 

In the last three years I’ve learned that enthusiasm is an absolutely HUGE variable that determines whether or not it’s possible to ignite a grassroots tech startup scene. And frankly, the Dayton region has not had sufficient enthusiasm for the prospect of building a real startup scene. There are a handful of individuals that are all in for this. I can name them. They’re ready, willing, and able to put in the time and effort to make this happen. But that list is horrifically short. And it’s about to get even shorter.

In the almost 3 years I’ve been “efforting” to ignite a tech startup scene, only two people have stepped in as leaders to help build the group and, subsequently, the regional tech startup scene. Despite my repeated calls for additional community builders, no one else made themselves available. In truth, there were a couple of others that seemed interested. But that just didn’t translate into bodies on board. And unfortunately, both of the people that did step in are no longer able to be on board. I thank them both – Alejandro and Max – for their service. So, from a leadership perspective, it’s just me now.

It’s not just an apathy for community-building. It’s been apathy for just attending events that we offered – social hours, co-working sessions … anything! There’s been so little energy from the people in the Dayton region to just get out of their houses once or twice a month to gather and socialize around tech startups, that I’ve wondered if there’s a pulse at all!

Oh no! She’s flatlining. Defibrillator. Defibrillator!

CLEAR!

Bzzzzzzzz!

Still no pulse!

AGAIN!

CLEAR!

Bzzzzzzzz!

We’re losing her.

WE’RE LOSING HER!

 

I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry. We did the best we could. It just wasn’t … It just wasn’t enough. My condolences.

 

To quote Larry The Liquidator in the movie “Other People’s Money” (played with delightful effect by Danny Devito):

It’s dead.

Don’t blame me.

It was dead when I got here!

 

Of course Larry was talking about a dying company he had targeted for acquiring and then selling in pieces, or liquidation, in order to make a lot of money. Here of course, we’re talking about the regional tech startup scene. I have no plans to break Dayton into pieces and sell them off.

Then again … maybe I could interest Columbus, Indianapolis, Detroit, and Cincinnati in a section or two.

 

Another important event that exemplified the apathy around tech startups was Startup Weekend. There were two attempts to do this in 2014. The first attracted less than 30 people. The second had to be canceled due to insufficient registrations. Frankly, I think the second attempt was too soon considering the disappointing turnout of the first one. But I’m sure the organizers learned from their experience.

 

 

Pivot

To turn on or as on a pivot.

I’m just a bit tired of this word. It’s one of the most overused in the world of tech startups – right up there with ecosystem, disrupt, scale, and way too many others. But damnit I couldn’t think of a better one to use.

Anyway, yes it’s pivot time.

First, I have a couple of project ideas that haven’t received my full attention. I’ve neglected theses ideas because some of my attention went to Ignitetech. I’m not just a community builder. I have looney ideas constantly bouncing around in my crazy brain. And they’re just aching to launch. So I’m pursuing them with a relentless and ruthless focus.

Second, what does this mean for IgniteTech? Will it continue on? Will it evolve into something else? Well I don’t know yet. I’d be ecstatic if a few more people showed some enthusiasm (i.e., opposite of apathy) for helping to build a grassroots tech startup movement by taking leadership positions in IgniteTech. Based on past experience, that’s not likely to happen.

Alternately, the group may “pivot” in a different direction. I have an idea or two that dovetails with the projects I’m developing. So it may still exist but become something completely different than the original mission. On the other hand, maybe it just needs a merciful death. That’s a strong possibility too.

Regardless of which direction I take here, the initial IgniteTech adventure is over. It started with a tech startup summit I co-produced in November of 2012. And it continued with the launch of IgniteTech in January of 2013. Now I must turn my full attention to embarking on other adventures. Of course now and then I’ll still post observations about the Dayton tech startup scene. I’ll still participate, on occasion, in tech startup activities. I’ll continue to observe how things transpire. Maybe someone else will be able to inject a dose of electricity and jolt some life into the moribund Dayton scene.

Yea. Like Frankenstein bringing his monster to life.

Just remember …

Don’t blame me.

I didn’t kill it.

It was dead when I got here.

 

But maybe, just maybe a team of mad scientists can conjure up some lightning one stormy night and bring Daytonstein to life!

 

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

——————

 

 

Rustbelt Rising #14: Part I
Sep 11th, 2015 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Rust Belt Rising … An Epic Quest To Build A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.

— by Blake Glenn

 

The End Times Cometh!

 

Membership

The total number of members belonging to an organization, society, etc.

If you’ve been reading these updates you know that IgniteTech is a group I launched in January 2013 as a means to gather people interested in building a dynamic grassroots tech startup scene in the Dayton, OH region. In December of 2014 the IgniteTech membership stood at about 190 people. Since then the membership has increased to over 270 people. That’s pretty good growth, especially for the Dayton, OH region. 80 more members in 8 months. So that’s some real good news right?

And yet, the last event IgniteTech attempted to co-produce with two other tech groups – a beer and bowling party – could only muster 4 registrations … including me! So we had to cancel it. Since last year I’ve noticed a decline in registrations for IgniteTech social events as well as our  monthly pitching/co-working meetups.

So what does this mean?

Well it seems that the membership doesn’t like what we’re offering. And to attempt to counteract this declining trend in participation, we issued a survey early this year to get a sense of what people want. While there were a few responses, I would call it tepid at best. And over the last 2 years I’ve also seen lukewarm interest in other tech startup activities not sponsored by IgniteTech.

What it means is … the IgniteTech membership not only doesn’t like what we’ve tried to offer, but doesn’t care much to tell us what they actually do want.

So why does the membership keep growing?

Well, uh, geez … Hell if I know!

Maybe people just like joining stuff, whether they plan to participate or not!

 

Traction

The adhesive friction of a body on some surface, as a wheel on a rail or a tire on a road

Initially, IgniteTech was able to get a little traction in interest with our early events. Our typical attendance was in the range of 20 – 25 people. As I look back I think a big part of this was that there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING going on in the tech startup scene. I mean NOTHING! Hell there actually wasn’t a tech startup scene at all.

While there always have been and will be individuals interested in launching the next billion dollar IPO, there wasn’t an actual grassroots community that existed around tech startups. A community that supported, critiqued, and collaborated to help launch more ventures. I think the initial interest in IgniteTech events was also driven by an intrigue at the prospect of something new.

But as time progressed, our ability to maintain that initial traction has become a whole lot more challenging. The tread wear on these tires is pretty damned thin. New tires are probably needed. But frankly is it really worth the effort to try to regain the traction?

Keeping with the auto metaphor, maybe it’s best if someone with a brand new car came in to try and burn a little rubber in the tech startup scene. Oops. That would actually wear off the tread wouldn’t it. Bad metaphor.

A group called Startup Grind has recently launched in Dayton. Maybe it will gain some traction. And there’s rumblings of a new attempt at another Startup Weekend. Perhaps with their past experience as a guide, they’ll be able to pull it off. I really wish both of these efforts the best. The region needs new blood, new ideas, new energy.

 

Community

A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists

With this in mind, the Dayton region does have an existing tech community that is made up of programmers, designers, engineers, project managers, small business owners … etc. Then there’s the sub-community within the broader tech community that consists of founders of tech-related ventures that are launching ideas, seeking angel and venture funding, and trying to achieve a high growth trajectory.

But these communities are mostly a collection of individuals and teams working their own ventures, with minimal ongoing interaction and collaboration among others in the “community”. But if there’s minimal ongoing interaction, and there’s little mutual support, is it really a community at all?

Well I say no. It’s not. Definitely not.

At least not the type of community that can lead to building a truly dynamic tech startup scene. It’s simply a collection of individuals. No more.  When I look around the country at some of the cities/regions where tech startups are really emerging (Las Vegas; Columbus; Washington, DC; Chicago; even Detroit) there appear to be active grassroots communities that hold well-attended events. As an outsider, there appears to be great enthusiasm for activities that allow people to bump and connect (I’m tired of saying “colliding”). Even lil’ ole’ Reno, NV (similar to Dayton in size and its loss of traditional industry jobs – casinos in this case) is trying to become a tech startup player. And it just might succeed too.

 

In my next post, I’ll conclude my thoughts on the status of IgniteTech and the Dayton tech startup scene in Rustbelt Rising #14: Part II.

 

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!

 

Rustbelt Rising #13
Jun 9th, 2015 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Rust Belt Rising … An Epic Quest To Build A Vibrant Tech Startup Scene In A Traditional, Conservative, Hard-core Rust Belt Town.

— by Blake Glenn

 

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted a Rustbelt Rising entry. I’ve not posted a Rustbelt Rising piece since August of 2014. That’s true for a few reasons.

First, I’ve been exceptionally busy with developing a couple of ideas (well, one in particular) I’ve been cooking up for a while. And I was just itching to start testing them out. They’re not earth-shattering or world-changing or prophecy-realizing … but a couple of ideas I’m anxious to experiment with and develop to see where they go. I’ll have more on these fledgling ideas in upcoming posts.

Secondly, I’ve had some non-startup, non-business personal activity I’ve needed to deal with. This has kept me fairly busy. It’s possible there may be a story or two eventually coming out of it in the future. Hell, all of life’s detours offer up stories don’t they.

Finally, there simply hasn’t been that much to report. While there’s been some activity in the last few months among various tech groups, most of it has been the typical monthly meetups. There’s been very little in the way of truly dynamic, interesting stuff to talk about. And that includes IgniteTech, the grass roots tech startup group I founded and co-organize. As far as I know there hasn’t been any significant tech startup news – fundings, growth, cash outs or anything else in the last several months.

I’ve reduced my time in IgniteTech because of my other commitments. Organizing activities takes a lot of time and effort. And when you’re doing it voluntarily it doesn’t pay the bills. But fortunately a young guy named Max, a tech startup founder himself, has stepped in to provide some much needed assistance to help keep the group going.

So, as I really consider it, I think the story is that there has been little going on that’s blog post-worthy. Maybe the things that haven’t happened ARE the story. The group that produced the first Startup Weekend event in Dayton last June, headed up by a hard-working facilitator named Dave Best, attempted to produce another event in the Fall of 2014. There just wasn’t enough interest to make it fly.

That’s Red Flag #1!

And I’ve tried to get a few more people to co-organize IgniteTech events … unsuccessfully. Max is the only one that’s actually jumped into the fray. While the group has grown to over 220 members, only a small handful have expressed any interest in becoming leaders or facilitators in the tech startup scene we’re attempting to build. I’d even got to the point of reducing the number of social hours and co-working sessions because the participation wasn’t there.

Unless a few others jump in and show that there’s a fledgling community worth trying to build, and people passionate enough to help build it … my decision making going forward will be very clear. Through IgniteTech we put out a survey to see what people would respond to. We received feedback, but the number of responses was disappointing.

That’s Red Flag #2!

Frankly, I’m seeing a lot of apathy and disinterest in building a tech startup community. At this point in the process I’m not seeing a real passion across a significant population to make decent strides in the near future. There are a handful of people really passionate about making something happen. But they seem few and far between. The people with the commitment to be entrepreneurs, AND to offer their blood and sweat to build a community, may not exist in a high enough concentration … right now.

That’s Red Flag #3!

2 1/2 years into the process I didn’t expect to have dozens of new launches funded with millions of angel and VC dollars along with 1 or 2 billion dollar valuations. But I thought further strides would be have been made. As I was reminded at the IgniteTech “Tech Night Out” social event in May, it takes a long time to build a dynamic tech startup scene from scratch. And, even though there has been a small bit of tech startup activity in the past, the Dayton region is really in the very early stages of a very long community-building process.

Patience, and a hell-of-a-lot of it, is indeed a virtue.

According to Brad Feld and some other experts, it can take up to 20 years to build a dynamic tech startup scene. His philosophy seems to be that a tech startup community has to be inclusive of anyone that wants to help build the community – No matter who they are or what their background is. But in order for it to be successful it must be driven by the very entrepreneurs that it will benefit the most.

If entrepreneurs (and their passionate partners) build it … then other entrepreneurs will come. And then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will become a Field of Tech Startup Dreams!

Without knowing anything about Brad Feld when I launched IgniteTech 2 1/2years ago, that was my exact same philosophy. It just makes common sense.

Maybe the Dayton region simply isn’t a good market for tech startups. At least not as a stand alone region. Frankly, the real region includes Columbus to the east, Cincinnati to the south, and Indianapolis to the west. All of these cities are within a 2 hour drive of Dayton. And the Dayton sub-region sits strategically, more or less, in the middle. Each of those other cities have made some good strides in building their own tech startup scenes. I think Dayton’s future with tech startups, if it has one, is to be a component of this larger region.

But only time will tell what happens. The question is – how much time?

Well, let’s touch base in, oh, 17 1/2 years and see where we are!

 

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 #11: A Spirit Of Cooperation
Jul 30th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

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

– By Blake Glenn

 

A few days ago IgniteTech partnered with a tech incubator called The Hamilton Mill to produce a new storytelling event called “From The Shop Floor”. Formerly called BizTech Center, this incubator is nestled in the riverfront downtown area of Hamilton, OH, a small industrial town located in SW Ohio between Cincinnati and Dayton (but closer to Cincinnati).

The city has a population of roughly 60,000. And like many other rust belt towns, Hamilton is in the midst of trying to extricate itself from its rust belt lineage and reimagining into something new. And this general effort in the city parallels the rebranding effort of The Hamilton Mill incubator. The incubator has existed since the early 2000’s. But, like many other tech incubators around the country, over time it became more of a condo for small businesses that grew comfortable in the space and showed limited growth prospects. Ideally an incubator company with fast-growth ambitions will maintain a presence for a few short years … then move on to bigger digs as they get funding, hire talent, and move past the early stage of tech startup-hood.

Now The Hamilton Mill is re-positioning itself as a real destination for venture founders that are launching fast-growth tech startups. The managers really seem to want to build a dynamic incubator that helps to launch and grow real growth oriented tech ventures. In doing so, they’ve shown mucho interest in partnering with other groups to build a more dynamic regional tech startup scene.

Now this brings me back to IgniteTech’s nascent alliance with The Hamilton Mill. This idea first came up several months ago after a discussion with Antony, the operations manager at the incubator. He became a member of IgniteTech and expressed interest in some sort of collaboration. So it just made sense that we’d merge an IgniteTech Happy Hour event with a storytelling event focused on a Hamilton Mill company. After all, IgniteTech has previously produced a few storytelling events of our own.

This initial event featured Paul Kling, co-founder of a statup called kw River. The company, launched in 2013, hopes to produce a hydro-electric device that creates water-based clean energy. His story was interesting and the Q&A session showed that the attendees were quite engaged.

I’d say our initial collaboration went pretty well. The story was good. I witnessed several new connections being made among attendees. There was free food from a local caterer … and wine and beer too.

The only problem was that I arrived a little too early. Antony and I got to work carrying food. Moving around furniture. And hauling big cooler-loads of ice, wine and beer up several stairs. I sweated a bit. But I’ll not complain. Hell, it was good exercise. Besides after all, in order to build a real tech startup community, somebody’s got to roll up their damned sleeves and do some of the dirty work!

 

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 # 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

 

 

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