Author: admin

How to Help Tech Entrepreneurs in Your City

I’ve attended a few meetings lately with groups in Baltimore who want to help technology entrepreneurs. Here’s what I’ve been thinking and saying in these meetings. First, make your city more livable You could do the most good by focusing on quality-of-life issues that affect everyone. People who want to start tech businesses are likely to be highly mobile with options and resources. Any city that takes itself seriously as a safe, tolerant place offering diverse choices of lifestyle, housing, and fun things to do, should automatically become a technology hub. Fortunately, there are already many people working on improving quality of life. I asked Scott Burkholder for some examples of civic and cultural groups that are doing good work with whom we in the business community could partner. Some of his suggestions are below: (of course Scott was too modest to mention his own public art endeavor, Baltimore Love Project) Entrepreneurs don’t actually need much direct help By definition entrepreneurs are “relentlessly resourceful“, so on some level they don’t need any help – they need the government to stay out of their way (I’m looking at you, Tech Tax 2). I always think of my friend Scott Messinger and his company Common Curriculum, which I advise. That dude is not waiting for anyone to give him anything; he taught himself to code, he’s overcoming all kinds of obstacles,...

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Five Things Governments Can Do to Encourage Civic Startups

2012 is shaping up to be the “Year of the Civic Startup.” With the growth of the open government movement and more and more governments embracing open data, we see an increasing number of useful civic applications being developed. Every weekend hackathon spawns multiple projects that could potentially live on as a successful venture or company. Some hackathons are specifically geared toward producing viable companies – this is exactly the approach that was taken at last November’s “Education Hack Day” in Baltimore. At that event, the idea was to set up winners with as much expert advice and opportunity as possible to launch a business around their weekend project to help teachers. Generally speaking, a “civic startup” is a startup company with a focus on civic improvement or social good. They look and act just like other kinds of startups, but their aims are somewhat loftier. ElectNext and SeeClickFix are a good example of a civic startups – their aim is to become profitable and viable (just like other startups), but if these ventures are successful they will impact people far beyond their direct customer/user base. Everyone benefits when voters are more engaged and participate more regularly in elections, or when city neighborhoods are cleaned up. We all get something out of the success of civic startups like ElectNext and SeeClickFix , whether we use them directly or not....

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Bizelo – an App Store for Small Businesses

As a professional software consultant I can vouch for the fact that most small businesses that are using software to manage their stores are doing so with a side of Tylenol. The big players in the space like Intuit and Microsoft have all but cornered the market and because of this, are less concerned with user experience and more interested in user acquisition. This opens up a lot of opportunity for innovation. Enter Bizelo. Bizelo is a suite of apps for small businesses that either has Intuit going back to the drawing board or forcing them to do so very soon. Their secret: rather than cram a ton of functions and features into one big app, they’ve broken down those individual functions into many, low-cost apps available on a subscription basis — most for under $30 a month. This allows small businesses the freedom to pick and choose and only pay for what they want. Another one of Bizelo’s unique offerings is custom apps based on industry. Most products that are available on the market today make their customers conform to their general terminology, which is more than likely different than what terminology that industry is used to using. Bizelo offers these industry-specific apps that make, say the spa-industry-user, feel like that app was written for them. They’re seeing substantial growth and acceptance of this on Etsy.com as well,...

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An Hour in the Life of a One-to-One Teacher in Baltimore

Last week I was fortunate enough to sit in on an 8th grade math class led by Kevin Tame, a Teach for America corps member that’s in his 2nd year of teaching at Booker T. Washington Middle School. Booker has had some tough years and is sadly one of Baltimore’s lowest performing public schools. In fact, it has seen a turnover of 4 principals just in the past 5 years. Teach for America is a non-profit organization that transplants top performing teachers into distressed schools around the country hoping to enact radical change within the schools. They’ve placed Kevin at Booker which is just the type of school that welcomes this type of intervention and as I found out last week, Kevin isn’t just living up to their expectations, he’s exceeding them. A Dojo of iPads It didn’t take long for me to notice a profound uniqueness about Kevin’s class. It’s filled with technology. I don’t just mean computers, I mean the raw sense of the word. He’s applying scientific knowledge and evaluation to every aspect of his class. His chalkboards and walls are covered in charts and graphs that serve as a bit of an analog dashboard of analytics for his class’s performance. At any given time, a student can look up and see just how they’re performing that day or cumulatively throughout the year. The desks are...

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A Vision for Baltimore’s Tech Business Ecosystem

It can be difficult to see the forest for the trees when it comes to defining what it is we in the so-called “tech community” are trying to achieve. The confusion begins with names: some call it the “startup community,” the “tech business community,” or #BmoreTech. Whatever. I’ve been splitting these hairs for several years now, and with the help of many others and after many personal experiences with organizing groups, events, venues, and businesses have developed a simple but powerful vision for the community. We’re all trying to build an ecosystem that looks something like this (click picture to enlarge): Before we get into the specifics of this vision, here are a few basic values that underly it:   People are the lifeblood of the community. The ecosystem requires educated, creative people. We should strive to enrich and build compelling opportunities for the people in our community. Businesses generate the wealth that powers our community. Strong businesses make a strong community. We should aim to make our businesses stronger and more valuable. There is a role for everyone. Diversity of expertise and background is essential to a strong business community. We should aspire to have a healthy mix of product companies, service companies, business service providers, and many types of venues and events for relationship building. We should celebrate our successes. Celebrating successes, whether they are successful exits...

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