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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

 

————————

 

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!

 

 

The Case Of The Missing Equity! … Part II
Mar 9th, 2016 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A true story taken from the (Mis-)Adventures of The Looney Executive.

 

If you missed The Case Of The Missing Equity – Part I, it might help to catch up on the chaos of this tale and then come back for the rest!

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

So all of that insanity set the stage for a chaotic, unfocused, middling, small business pursuing government contracts. Having advised a handful of distressed small businesses I’d become somewhat of a distressed biz profiler. I’d seen the story before. And the evidence was laid out in plain sight for all to see.

 

  • No core strategy.
  • No focus.
  • Poor leadership.
  • No bread and butter clients (i.e., clients that brought consistent revenue).
  • No nothing else that was superior or unique or special that could be exploited.
  • Chaos all around.

 

Since he and I shared an office I’d been talking to him on a daily basis. I knew the strategy because I was helping to develop it, or at least I tried. He changed it almost weekly. This was an act of desperation. And I understood. I’d been in the desperate zone myself. But my strongly encouraged advice of developing and executing a core strategy went unheeded.

One week the focus was on applying for government certifications. The next it’s on contract bidding for items outside of his niche. We bid on a few contracts. Won none of them. Winning government contracts is a volume game. The competition can be fierce. So in order to be successful, you need to produce lots of proposals. It was a jungle where only the strongest, and best-connected, could thrive. We also discussed a few unique ideas that we could launch. These were ideas that would bring his thinking more in line with that of a tech startup founder. But Ricky just wasn’t of the mindset to think, and act, too creatively. On top of it all, Ricky was focused on his PhD studies. So he’d spend large parts of days doing school work and not addressing the severely damaged ship careening toward a fiery crash.

And yet part of the promo (before I arrived) included such typical and overused mantras as “highest quality”, “number one company”, “most experienced” … huh?

Even with that I was a little surprised when one day, out of the blue, he broke the news of layoffs for some of his small staff, including me. My surprise was not the layoff itself, but that he didn’t give a heads up, and frankly that it didn’t happen sooner. But he offered what he thought was a carrot to keep us engaged. He offered us an equity stake but …

 

There was no “there” there.

There was nothing original that was being produced.

There were no long-term contracts.

There were no patents or other valuable intellectual property.

There was no A+ management team.

 

And there was a lack of trust too.

On more than one occasion Ricky told a staff member that paychecks were on the way when they hadn’t even been mailed yet. He was buying time. Not communicating with staff. Operating on the edge. Sometimes when the landlord came by to collect, Ricky would pretend to not be there. Why the landlord felt the need to collect in person was an interesting phenomenon in itself. Perhaps he too had been told one time too many times that the check was in the mail.

As the team gathered in a meeting to discuss this dire situation, I just asked a couple of entirely reasonable questions. I didn’t want to say outright that equity-for-work was a damned horrible idea and embarrass him. But I needed to know. When I asked the legitimate question of how much he currently valued the company, he blurted out an exorbitantly high number. When I followed up with the question of how he arrived at that number, he became a bit irritated and defensive. He said that he could create any value he wanted.

Clearly he was delusional. I didn’t see this as an outright attempt at fraud. He was desperate. He wanted to think that his hard work over the years translated into something of great value. Unfortunately, like for most of the hard-working 49er’s of the California gold rush, it didn’t.

This model he’d chosen to pursue was a dead end. He may get a few contracts here and there. But without a clear focus, a good strategy, and great leadership he was destined to pilot this ship aimlessly through the coldness of space until it eventually simply crashed.

 

After evaluating the situation my advice was simple:

  • Shoot this miserable, suffering beast as a means to a merciful death.
  • Kill it quickly and decisively. He, and it, would not have to suffer any more.
  • Get a job. Save money. Pay off the bills.
  • Develop better ideas.
  • Start fresh in a couple of years.
  • Better yet, pursue acquisitions as a path back to entrepreneurship.

 

But if he was crazy enough to keep going as a startup entrepreneur … start over with a core strategy around one or two unique ideas in a space that was not a low-profit, commoditized jungle.

Ricky did get a job for a while. But, ignoring my advice, he kept the company open for business doing the same thing. A couple of years later, after I was gone from the DC area, he told me he had moved into a new office park. Same business model though. I always wish him the best. I hope he succeeds.

But the old saying is true … sometimes you just can’t teach a stubborn old dog new tricks.

 

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!

 

 

The Case Of The Missing Equity! … Part I
Mar 1st, 2016 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

A true story taken from the (Mis-)Adventures of The Looney Executive.

 

Way back in 2008 I worked briefly for a very small tech company. The founder, and sole owner, was a friend of mine. We met in college. Let’s call my friend Ricky. Over the years Ricky and I both tried our hand at entrepreneurship. His sole focus has been on trying to build a company around bidding for government contracts. He didn’t have a “Silicon Valley” mindset. He wasn’t focused on developing original, “disruptive” ideas that targeted a unique “space” and led to billion dollar IPOs – just simply bidding on government contracts. The DC/Northern Virginia/Southern Maryland region is ripe with so many entrepreneurs chasing the same elusive but potentially profitable dream.

At the time, Ricky desired someone to come in and provide a much needed dose of strategy and marketing for his fledgling, middling enterprise. So he asked me to help out. Over the years, as we discussed our entrepreneurial adventures, I never got a clear sense of his focus. And when I actually went inside the company I saw some things that surprised me. First, he wasn’t running his business full time. He was actually working for a large aerospace company part time. In understood this of course. You have to pay bills. And he had kids to support. But he was driving to Philly for his job. That was a 2-hour drive one way. Good thing it was part-time.

Secondly, he was bidding on supplying low-margin, commodity electronic items of all types to government agencies. As I found out in short time, literally anyone could do this. Being an expert in electronics was unnecessary. Just connect with a distributor, set up in your home, go to certain web sites for the solicitations, apply for a certification or two, put pen to paper (metaphorically of course) to bid for contracts, and voila! – you were a new very low-overhead competitor. The barriers to entry were pretty non-existent. So, because he leased a fair amount of office space, Ricky was already at a disadvantage.

Thirdly, a massive storm cloud had overtaken his operations. Let me explain. Shortly before I arrived, there was some major internal drama. Ricky fired one of his employees. Let’s call her Diane. Diane had set up her own operation using HIS equipment in order to compete against him for the same bids. But wait, there’s more.

Diane was also the sister of Ricky’s former long-time girlfriend (and mother of his 3 children), Tanya. Tanya also worked for Ricky. And she had convinced him to hire her sister Diane against his better judgment. Diane had been relieved of her previous job under cloudy circumstances. It appeared to be some level of financial misconduct, maybe embezzlement. This woman already had a history of corrupt-minded activities, which is why Ricky didn’t want to hire her. But he did it to appease Tanya. Tanya thought it would be a fresh start for Diane. Well as the saying goes, it’s hard to teach an old crook new tricks, unless they’re crooked tricks.

After Diane’s treachery, the nuclear fallout from this fiasco also emptied into family relationships as Diane and Tanya went on the warpath against each other, dragging their siblings and parents into the fray. Those extended family gatherings must have been so very interesting.

And there was a bit more intrigue going on that Ricky had actually created himself. On behalf of his employer, his job was to work with small businesses that provided products and services to the company. Over time he developed relationships with several vendors. One of those vendors built proprietary cables for Ricky’s employer. One day the owner decided to sell his little venture. And Ricky decided to buy it … without his employer’s knowledge. In short time his employer discovered that Ricky had acquired one of its small suppliers. So this employer was paying him, already an employee, to make cabling products for them through the guise of the company he acquired.

And how did they find this out?

Well Diane of course. She called and told them. Diane may be going down in flames but she certainly wasn’t going alone!

But Ricky’s employer couldn’t prove that he’d done this. They called his office a couple of times. But they got nowhere. Ricky was smart enough to operate the acquired company under its original name. Soon however, Ricky was relieved of his part-time gig. Unless, a company arranged an Enron-like bifurcation of subsidiaries, ferreting out the true ownership of any venture would take just a little digging.

Whew! Is your head spinning too?

Not to worry. Let’s take a breather. I’ll finish this story in Part II of “The Case Of The Missing Equity!”

By that time I hope your head-spinning, and dizziness, will have subsided.

 

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

——————

 

 

What The Hell’s A Startup?
Jan 6th, 2015 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Looney thoughts, perspectives, and insights on the world of business!

– By Blake Glenn

 

Happy New Year!!

Yes it’s 2015. It’s the beginning of the second half of the second decade of the first century of the second millennium A.D. The new year is just launching. The year is a, uh, startup if you will. And since it’s the start up of a new year, I’d like to just review the definition of just exactly what is a startup, in the business sense.

What?

Are you serious?

By God dude. Everyone knows the definition of a startup. Everyone!

Well I thought I knew the definition too. But my confidence in such knowledge was thrown into complete disarray and shaken to its core when I caught an episode of a web series called That Startup Show. It’s based in Australia and features a host (that seems to be a comedian) conducting a panel of guests, all of whom appear to hail from somewhere in the world of Australian tech startups.

At one point, they debate the definition of startup. Now according to them, a startup:

  • Must have technology at its core
  • Be highly scalable, i.e., high-growth

 

So in essence what they’re saying is that a startup is only a startup if it’s a high-growth tech-centered venture. OMG! This whole time I thought any venture in the beginning stages of launch could be called a startup, regardless of the presence of tech or its high-growth potential. So let’s say we have the following new launches:

  • A chain of organic pink fondue restaurants
  • An off-coast deep-sea oil drilling operation run by dolphins
  • A new TV production company launching a South Park TV series clone
  • A life-sized LeBron James toy manufacturer (Cleveland AND Miami versions thank you)

 

According to the common opinion on That Startup Show, none of these would be considered a startup venture. Check out the discussion beginning around the 7:30 mark.

 

 

 

This conundrum sent me into such a tizzy and near hopelessness that I had no choice but to set out on an epic quest to find the true meaning of startup. After much trekking through the wilderness, navigating un-passable terrains, fighting off man-eating beasts, and tempting starvation I was finally able to reach the remote temples of the most renowned minds in the universe. I’ve recently returned from that quest. And I present to you the enlightenment shared with me by those ascended beings.

 

The Oracle of the Wikipedia:

A startup company or startup is a company, a partnership or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. These companies, generally newly created, are in a phase of development and research for markets. The term became popular internationally during the dot-com bubble when a great number of dot-com companies were founded.

 

The Sage of Dictionary.com:

noun
1. the act or fact of starting something; a setting in motion.

adjective
2. of or relating to the beginning of a new project or venture, especially to an investment made to initiate such a project, as in a commercial or industrial enterprise:

“high start-up costs.”

 

The High Priestess of the Merriam-Webster:

start–up noun, often attributive
: a new business

Full Definition of START-UP

1: the act or an instance of setting in operation or motion

2: a fledgling business enterprise

First Known Use of START-UP

1845

 

None of these ultimate sources of higher knowledge mentioned “technology” in their definition. And only The Oracle of the Wikipedia mentioned the word “scalable”. So it is, that after this treacherous quest for knowledge, I am left with a completely unexpected and frightening simple conclusion …

Some part of the tech startup populace has been infected with a nasty virus. This virus causes its victims to engage in self-indulgent, arrogant, egotistical and narcissistic behaviors that leads them to believe that the known universe actually revolves around the world of technology startups.

 

While this virus may have been with us for decades, perhaps even centuries, the medical community believes that a new and virulent strain mutated around August 1995, when Netscape completed its IPO, and became a pandemic with the progression of the Dot Com 1.0 era. They also believe that the virus went into a brief hibernation period after the Dot Com implosion of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

But now the evidence is clear. This damned virus is roaring back, nastier and more contagious than ever. Now let me say that I have nothing against the host of That Startup Show or his guests. And the show itself is very interesting. I actually like what I’ve seen so far (though the profanity seems a bit gratuitous at times … and I LIKE profanity!). The host and guests all seem like very intelligent, good-natured people. But I imagine so was the Patient Zero that carried and spread the black plague that ravaged Europe.

By no means is this just an Australian thing. I know I’ve also seen bits of this virus locally, even in people (especially tech heads) that have yet to launch a damned thing!

So I plead to the global medical community. Please. Please. PLEASE! Find a cure to this deadly illness before the entire population is infected … and we all develop minds clouded with thoughts of venture funding, cash outs, IPOs, and tech startups dancing in our heads.

The fate, and future, of the entirety of  humanity depends on you.

Wait a minute. I see a group of tech entrepreneurs coming toward me. I know a couple of them. Hey Guys. Over here!

Uh Oh. They’re muttering something about IPOs, the semantic web, seed stage, IPO road show …  Their eyes look strange. All bloodshot and glazed over. Oh shit … they’re infected. Infected! Gotta get away. Run. Run. Run!

Oh no. All these doors are locked. Damn it. Help. Open up. HELP! SOMEBODY HELP ME!!!

Get away from me you freaks. Get the f$#k away from me! No. NO! I don’t want to do an IPO! I don’t want to disrupt a space. I don’t want to go big or go home! Aaahhhh!!!

Emergency Notice to The Looney Executive blog readers:

The CDC  brings you the following special bulletin:

Blakey G. is currently being quarantined and treated for a mysterious contagion.

While we hope for his complete recovery, The Looney Executive blog has been shut down until further notice.

Decontamination is in progress.

Please Stand By.

Thank You.

 

— The CDC

 

Lavender Skull and Cross Bonesx

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

The Lucrative VC Game!
Oct 29th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

Looney thoughts, perspectives, and insights on the world of business!

– By Blake Glenn

 

According to a recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog, large fund venture capitalists are acting, and being paid, like asset managers instead of the aggressive, risk-taking, swashbuckling cowboys (or is it pirates?) their image purports.

Apparently asset managers typically get the bulk of their fee based on the size of the funds they manage rather than the actual performance of the assets. And VCs are being paid in much the same manner according to the Harvard Business Review. Rather than the bulk of their compensation being tied to the performance of their funds, their typical 2% asset management fee compensates them PDM (pretty damned well).

For clarity, the usual VC model is to realize about 20% of the “cash out” of any startup in its portfolio. The remaining 80% goes to the limited partners that provided the investment money. But in the last several years, many VC funds have had few cash outs.

Of course the current model really works best if the fund is big … Big … BIG!

For instance, here are the compensation numbers at a 2% management fee structure for 3 VC fund sizes:

 

  • $10,000,000 @ 2% = $200,000
  • $100,000,000 @ 2% = $2,000,000
  • $1,000,000,000 @ 2% = $20,000,000

 

So the larger the fund, the sweeter the fee. And the institutions (pension funds, college endowments, foundations … etc.), aka limited partners, that provide the money for VCs to build their funds, can be locked in for 10 years.

To compound this problem according to the post, the VC return the last 15 years hasn’t exceeded the typical stock market averages by enough to justify the investment by limited partners into these very large funds.

And as if that’s not enough to raise the big ole red flag, most of these VCs apparently only put in about 1% of their own money into any of their funds. And, if this post is accurate, that 1% is usually the money they get from the fund management fee itself, not from their own personal funds. So as this structure stands, VCs have little to none of their own skin in the game.

When you combine the under-performance issue with the 10 year fund commitment and minimal VC “skin in the game”, the potential fallout could be a nuclear winter that sees institutions shifting their money out of VC funds for better opportunities elsewhere. Combine that with the rise of crowd funding and we could see a major long-term change in the VC industry.

One final ironic twist about the VC game. The Harvard Business Review post points out that, in terms of economic structure, the VC industry has been severely lacking in disruption. You know. Disruption. The go-to word investors, entrepreneurs, and anyone else with access to the business news loves to throw around at industry gatherings, cocktail parties, and weddings. Even invoking that word at funerals has been known to lighten the mood, set eyes a glow, and bring back the formerly deceased to pitch an idea right on the spot.

When’s the last time an investor asked you:

“How much skin do you have in the game?”

or,

“How are you disrupting your target industry?”

 

The next time you’re asked those questions you can simply say:

“Our goal is to minimize my own money at risk, let the suckers worry about disruption, and make lots of dough with other people’s money. Now how about we get you signed you for $25,000,000 this round? This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will not last very long!”

 

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!

 

 

Daddy’s Home!
Sep 25th, 2014 by LOONEYEXECUTIVE

 

Looney thoughts, perspectives, and insights on the world of business!

— By Blake Glenn

 

Back in the olden days of business it used to be that the hard-drivin’, hard-drinkin’, chain-smoking executive busted his derriere (and in the olden days it was almost always a male) to move the company forward. He had to maximize profits, increase the stock price, and satisfy investors. He not only leaned in, he willingly dived in … head first!

Yep. These old-school ladder climbers routinely worked 60-hour plus weeks, including weekends. They missed anniversaries. They missed school plays. They missed birthdays. They missed youth sports. They missed weddings … and holidays … and all other sorts. And because of it they many times suffered spousal separations and divorces, child estrangement, and high stress levels.

Man On Journey

 

 

 

 

 

But it was worth it. There were spoils galore to be had. And what spoils they were. You see, in return for a few, uh, small sacrifices, these hard-grizzled men gained wealth and status and occasional fame. They gained magazine covers and conference key notes and notoriety as big-time players in the game. They leveled up in the business world!

And no one ever questioned how much time they spent with their families. It was just, well, understood that this was part of the deal.

  • But what if, say, a man decided to not go along with this anymore?
  • What if a man decided that his family WAS more important than his job?
  • What if a man’s time with the kids was a much richer gain than a magazine cover or additional wealth?

 

WAIT … WHA? … WHHAAAAT!

ARE YOU INSANE?

HOW DO YOU SPEAK SUCH BLASPHEMY?

WHY I’LL … I’LL REPORT YOU TO THE INTER-GALACTIC EXECUTIVE WORKAHOLIC ASSOCIATION FOR UTTERING SUCH BLABBER-TASTIC NON-SENSE!

Stop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok hold on now. Just hold your horses for a minute and hear me out.

This actually happened recently. In an August blog post, Max Schireson, former CEO at a tech startup called MongoDB, actually said no to any more “workaholic hard-climbing”. He cited reasons such as incessant travel, time away from kids, stress on his wife (and therefore probably his marriage … though he didn’t say this). And by the way, Max’s wife is no 1950’s Leave It To Beaver Mom. She’s a doctor and a college professor. AND she’s been carrying the child-rearing load to boot.

So Max has decided to “lean away” for a change. It sounds like he’ll still work. Just not in a position that requires too much family sacrifice. It will take a few years to see if this is a very public shot across the bow of the traditional male (and increasingly female) executive work ethic that signals a trend, or if it’s simply a temporary anomaly that will eventually fade into oblivion.

By the way, here’s an interview with Max a few weeks after the announcement. Max seems happy. Very happy. Most excellent for him and his family.

Home

 

 

 

 

In the meantime it’s back to work for me. You see I’m still the hard-chargin’, cigar-chompin’, over-achiever seeking my billionaire dollar pirate’s plunder in the game of business. I’ve been hittin’ it real hard non-stop. Let’s see what the clock says. Oh boy, I’ve been working a whole 15 minutes now. Whew. Where did the time go?

F*@k it.

I’m taking a nap!

 

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 #12: Tear The Roof Off The Sucker!
Aug 20th, 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

 

Everybody loves a good party!

Work hard. Play hard.

Those two go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Actually, I think the ability to let your hair down, relax, shake the backside a little (especially if you just have a little backside), and “tear the roof off the sucker” is paramount to success. You see founders tend to work hard. Relentless 12 to 16 hour days seem to be a fairly common work ethic among the most successful pop iconic tech entrepreneurs that grace the covers of so many magazines. Such relentless work hours seem critical to their outsized ambitions, and also to those that wish to stand with them some day on Mount Tech.

And those relentless work hours are yet another reason you’ll not see me on the cover of Fast Company, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, or Wired. I like my sleep quite a bit. But once I did complete a rather dashing semi-nude photo shoot for Non-Work-A-Holic Monthly. I’m quite proud of that too.

When I look around the land of tech startups I see a fair amount of letting-the-hair down in places like DC, San Francisco, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and LA. These tech communities burn lots of midnight oil creating, launching and growing their ventures. But they know how to have a little fun too!

So it was, 3 weeks ago right here in Dayton, OH, that a nice little party took place. It was called ReCharge. It’s the brainchild of local tech entrepreneur Lincoln Berry III. It took place on July 31st on a rooftop patio in the TechTown area of Dayton. There was food, beer, wine, music, and fun. The event brought together people from across the area to celebrate the regional tech scene. From what I hear, about 120 party-ers celebrated their buns off. The party started at 6:30 pm. And when I left around 10:00 pm, there were still people hanging out, talking, and finishing off the food.

Now for the avid party-ers such as myself that attended, it was a lot of fun. But for Lincoln and the team of people that worked with him to make this happen it was a lot of, well, work. Here’s to hoping that the amount of sweat that went into producing ReCharge was worth the effort to do it again soon.

I’m raising my glass for a well-deserved toast to ReCharge. And since it’s only seven o’clock in the morning, I’m raising a glass of water. But it’s a really stiff glass of water. At least that’s my story.

 

P.S. Lincoln where did you get those fried garlic-flavored chicken wings? They were absolutely deeeelish!

 

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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