Saturday, December 11, 2010

My (Crazy) Predictions for 2011

I like to think I can predict the future.... I guess if you believe in early meta-physics or in an estranged religion you can argue that you make your future through each subtle action, thus by definition (unconsciously) you are predicting the future.... but for this blog I am going to stick to voodoo and a little ole' fashioned guessin'.

So, here are my (tech) predictions for 2011

1. Google will buy MySpace. This seems like a weird move... but I have a feeling in my gut, that MySpace is a GOOD buy for them... it's losing value rapidly under its current ownership, and at some point they will wake up and figure out nobody wants to be part of a social network that is run by FOX... and I think they could get a nice premium by putting on auction block. Google needs to make a serious commitment in the space, and their "home grown" stuff won't get traction - because they need everyone to "opt-in" to their network - whereas, MySpace already has the opt-in userbase, and a good footprint that is salvageable by someone like Google. It also makes sense to get Google into the Music space as well (where they need to compete with ITunes/Ping).

2.  Open-Source 2.0.  Remember when Open-source was king? The rise of Linux, Firefox, etc.... and then it kind of faded away back into it's sub-culture cave... why? My opinion - it's because it never reached out to the masses. Open Source is a brilliant idea, but it needs to enable the masses to participate. It can't just be for hackers who dive into the code - it needs to include the "user" community (for example - Wordpress). So - my prediction - is that Open Source makes a major comeback this year, but with a new twist. Instead of focusing on Operating Systems and Browsers - it will focus on social aspects of the web. In fact, I will make a "pre"-prediction - The company that will overtake Facebook - will be an Open Source network where users (and developers) can have control and input over the entire social-web experience. (Diaspora is a nice step in that direction, but they need to engage the Users and empower them to participate in the creation of the next social network)

3. Facebook will raise 1B and buy every Social Network in the World. Sounds like a World-Domination plan doesn't it? Well guess what - that's their business plan. Bill Gates wanted a computer on every desk - and Facebook wants every single human being to have a profile. BUT, one problem - it's becoming harder and harder to convert people onto Facebook in other countries. (It's kind of like having a party where all your friends are, and you try to get one person to leave - but they won't leave unless ALL their friends leave). In the early days, it was easy. Now, they need to look to acquisitions. There are about 10 social networks that have dominance in their respective countries. Look for Facebook to start buying them up.

4. Yahoo (or Microsoft or Oracle or SAP or...) will buy LinkedIn. Here comes another bidding war. LinkedIn is one of those interesting social networks that seems to grow and continue to be a useful tool on the web but because it's not "social" in content - it doesn't have the explosive growth and use like a Facebook. However, what it does have is a Professional user base that makes buying decisions for businesses they own or work for. The pressure will be on them to find liquidity soon. They have been talking about going public, but nobody believes the revenue scale is there. Also, it just makes sense to sell for a couple billion and call it a day. Any massive company looking to move quickly into the SAAS world and inherit a nice network of users should buy LinkedIn now.

So there you have it.... now we just sit back and watch it all happen :)

Happy New Year. (Try not to spend so much time on Facebook next year.... there are other websites you know)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why you need to transform your website into a Blog.

If I looked back at my blog posts I am quite certain I had a blog that talked about the "death of websites" primarily because of the rise of social media. Nobody surfs the web anymore... They visit a few different sites for the most part, and don't feel the need to discover new sites.

Partially this is because the "newness" of web has faded. When we all first got onto the web, everything was exciting. We used to freak out that we could track our packages on Not anymore. The typical web user has higher expectations. Not just for quality of content, but quality of conversation. Thus, the challenge. How do you engage users in quality conversation thru your website?

Here are a few steps I recommend:

1. Reduce text. Increase images and video. Nobody reads. We live in a 140 character world now. If you can't say it in 140 chars then don't say it. Remember it's a conversation, if you talk too much it's rude. Let your user be part of the conversation.

2. Be more like a blog. Your homepage of your website needs to engage. It needs to be recent and relevant. Create a voice. A voice that your user relates to. In the dawn of the social web, treat your user like a friend. Be funny. Be honest. Be real. Nobody wants to be a friend to a website. Make it human.

3. Less logo, more love. There is something dysfunctional in brand marketing online. It comes across egotistical. This is why corporate marketing doesn't work on the social web. It comes across like the jerk who loves talking about himself. Don't be a jerk. Give your friends love. Engage them, ask them what they want. Let them talk. Just force feeding corporate marketing and branding down their throat will guarantee they never visit your site again.

4. Be social, but not too social. It's cool to have facebook Twitter, etc linked on your website, but don't go overboard. Keep some good stuff on your website and website only to keep your friends coming back. If you give it all to fb and Twitter, you may lose your friend entirely. For example, capture email or cell phone to keep in contact. Do promotions or clever communications to keep the conversation going. Remember, the user doesn't have to be on your website to engage in conversation. It can happen anywhere.

5. Make website mobile. This seems obvious, but many websites aren't ready for the mobile device. You don't have to go crazy and build an iPhone app, but you do need to simplify the interface for smart phones. The fact is that half the time they get your email or txt message they will get it on their phone. And when they click the link, it will be on the phone.

6. Link, embed and share. Somewhere along the line, the web became a very unfriendly place. When it all started people shared content and linked to each others websites. Then corporate branding got involved, and frowned upon links. Insisting it would cause users to leave. It's time to go back to the roots of the web. Link, share and add value to the network. Blogs brought this spirit of the web back, and it's time your website does the same.

7. Be raw. Be real. Everything on the web is digested in context. Videos on YouTube aren't expected to be million dollar productions, because YouTube has branded the experience as user generated content. The same can be true with your site, if you be more like a blog. You can upload corny videos shot with a flip cam, if in context. You can upload behind the scenes pictures in the context of building your relationship with users. It's not amateurish, it's real. And friends want reality.

8. Entertain. It's what you do when friends come over to visit, and it's what your should do on your website. It doesn't have to be a huge production....something subtle is fine. Remember the small things in life is what connect us. Expose your personality, and people will be entertained.

9. Speak to first time users, but focus on users who visit more than a few times month. Like a blog, you need to speak to your friends and fans. Most website, treat you like it's the first time visiting. Quite frankly it's awkward. It would be like visiting your friend over and over, and him asking your name every time. It's cold and impersonal. Treat users like friends. People want to go to websites where everyone knows their name.

10. Finally.... Be a good friend. Say thanks. Invites them over for dinner. Send them a birthday card.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The 21 Measurable Objectives for Economic Development from the City of Sarasota

A few people have asked me what exactly are the "priorities" of the City of Sarasota. I am going to post them here on my blog.

I am not going to criticize any of the objectives, but I thought it was interesting how many time the word "explore" was being used for any objective that was focused on entrepreneurship, technology or any kind of new economic development.  I highlighted the objectives that are based on real estate development or retail in red.

RED = Real Estate / Tourism
YELLOW = I have no idea what these mean? They seem obtuse and "immeasurable"
GREEN = Explorations that need to be strong commitments

This why we need to email our commissioners and ask them to make Broadband, Innovation and Entrepreneurship a priority.

Measurable Objectives:

1. Palm Avenue Mixed Use Retail Space: Provide the Commission with a Staff analysis of different options for successful development of the retail space component of the Palm Avenue mixed use project. (2010)

2. Baseball Spring Training: Continue to work with Sarasota County and the Baltimore Orioles to facilitate a successful 2010 Spring Training. (2010)

3. Robert L. Taylor Community Center: Commence construction of the new Robert Taylor Center utilizing local labor force. (2010)

4. Newtown Intergovernmental Partnering: Encourage opportunities for intergovernmental cooperation in the Greater Newtown Area (including Sarasota School Board, Sarasota County and the Sarasota Housing Authority). (2010)

5. Pursue Soundstage: Explore opportunities to partner with local educational institutions and government agencies to locate a soundstage (motion picture and television theatrical production space) within the City, with emphasis along North Tamiami Trail or in North Sarasota. (2010)

6. Ad Valorem Tax Exemption: Explore the possibility of preparing a referendum with Sarasota County allowing for an acceptable level of Ad Valorem Tax Exemption for new and expanding businesses that meet an established set of criteria. (2010)

7. Relieve Developmental Impediments: Create a business friendly City Hall by identifying impediments within any of the City Departments that inhibit successful and timely development and, if found, address and improve where possible. (2010)

8. Explore Economic Development Coordinator Position: Explore the possibility of hiring an economic development coordinator to be jointly funded by the City, DID, Downtown Sarasota Alliance, and the Downtown Council of the Chamber of Commerce. Identify existing efforts being made by the City and County towards economic development. (2010)

9. Improve Administration and Community Interaction: Increase administrative interactions with the following organizations: DID, Downtown Sarasota Alliance, St. Armand‟s BID, Coalition of City Neighborhoods and the Downtown Council of the Chamber of Commerce. (2010)

10. Improved E.D.C. Outcomes: Review the role of the Sarasota County E.D.C. in terms of measurable outcomes for the City of Sarasota. (2010)

11. Public Parking: Prepare materials for the Commission to determine the future of public parking; determine if public parking should be sustained by user fees or Ad Valorem Taxes. (2010)

12. Newtown Community Partnering: Develop methods similar to the East Tampa CRA to advance leadership/ownership in greater Newtown area. (2010, 2011)

13. North Trail Improvements: Continue planning efforts of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership using local resources to stimulate development of commercial nodes. (2010, 2011)

14. Business Incubator Program: Develop a small business incubator program to support and strengthen the small business initiatives in the Greater Newtown Community. The incubator will work in conjunction with the existing Community Entrepreneur Opportunity (CEO) program and Newtown Business and Merchant Association. (2010, 2011)

15. The Institutes for the Ages: Work with S.C.O.P.E. to encourage location of the new Institutes for the Ages within the City of Sarasota limits. (2010, 2011)

16. Wayfinding: Begin implementation of Phase 1 of the Wayfinding SRQ project. (2010, 2011)

17. Downtown Master Plan 2020: Provide suggested changes to the Downtown Master Plan Green Space Policy and make zoning code changes to strengthen Master Plan as needed. (2010, 2011)

18. Marion Anderson Site Environmental Cleanup: Complete a Brownfield Site Rehabilitation Agreement (BSRA) and remediation plan with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to commence an environmental cleanup of the site (extent of cleanup depends on future anticipated use). (2011)

19. Marion Anderson Site Redevelopment Plan: Develop a written process with timelines for the development of the Marion Anderson Site that include an appreciation of current market conditions and economic challenges. (2011)

20. Sell Palm Avenue Parcel: Issue an RFP for the sale of the City‟s remaining Palm Avenue parcel. Sale might be subject to the condition that buyer builds a mid to high-end market hotel. (2011)

21. Water Tower Technology Park: Explore possibility of creating a Technology Park near Water Tower Park to stimulate North Trail development. (2011)

Email our commissioners asking for them to make BROADBAND A PRIORITY

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Broadband = Economic Development

Have you ever felt like you are in an episode of the Twilight Zone? Occasionally, I find myself in conversations where I truly believe I am being "punked" by Rod Sterling.  Usually, it happens when the topic of "Economic Development" comes up.... perhaps this doesn't happen at your dinner table - but somehow the topic manages to come up often in my world.

For those who know our efforts around the Google Fiber campaign ( you will already know how passionate we are about broadband, but beyond that campaign we are also working hard on convincing our public and private leadership how important it is to make broadband a priority in our community. Right now, the city has over 50 priorities set for this fiscal year, and broadband isn't one of them.

So, lets take a step back - and redefine what "broadband" is - specifically in the context of things we care about creating jobs, health, schools, safety and the environment.  When I say "broadband" in meetings, I think most people have a picture of a cable pop in their head. This is probably why they are so quick to dismiss the concept of "broadband saving our city" is a "dream". So perhaps this is the challenge we are faced with in educating our leadership exactly what broadband really is....

1. Broadband is the number one asset to any business. If you take away bandwidth, the business will die. If you restrict bandwidth the business will lose to its competition.

2. Broadband is the number one asset in education. Without connectivity to information, to tele-learning, to connect classrooms around the world - our education system will fail to keep up with our work force standards.

3. Broadband is the number one asset of healthcare. Communication, data gathering and collaboration are critical to 21st century healthcare. Tele-medicine, remote monitoring, and mobile devices for managing health care operations are critical to providing state-of-the-art cost-effective health care.

4. Broadband is the number one asset in our environment. Preserving our environment requires research, collecting data, monitoring energy use - all of which requires broadband. Our use of energy is directly related to our ability to monitor date and improve operations leveraging broadband.

Almost every challenge we face as a community you can assume that broadband is part of the answer. We are not simply talking about improving connectivity to the home so we can all download movies faster - we are talking about the lifeline to our community.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Observations from an Outsider....

For those who know me - you know that I don't really like meetings, committees, board rooms and for that matter pants (I wear shorts). However, when we decided to look at economic development as one of the core principals of the HuB - we knew we would have to engage with the community on a more active basis. And for the last six months we have been interacting much more and going to meetings, and being part of committees (but still wearing shorts).

The three "groups" I am part of are 1) The "Design Platform" for Economic Development sponsored by the county and EDC  2) The Regional Incubator group and 3) The Task force for Better Broadband in Sarasota County.

Although all three are organized and sponsored by the local government - they are very different in how they were formed, and also how they operate.

The first one - Design Platform was created as part of a long term economic development strategy by some consultants and community leaders. I am not sure how everyone was picked to be in the group (most are private sector, a couple of government people)... and I am not sure how many of them are really taking an active role in executing the mission. I have gone to a few meetings, and they are getting progressively worse and unorganized. Ironically of the three groups I am part of - there is an actual coordinator and real money being spent on this effort.

The second one was started, because we have four incubator projects going on in the county, and they wanted to have some way to share ideas, work and perhaps leverage experience. Everyone in the group is linked in some way to an incubator project, so they do take an active role in the group since it has relevance to their day-to-day objectives. I volunteered to help orchestrate the group, and help the collaboration process since I was the only one who has actually started and operated an incubator. I want to see this group succeed, because I do believe a healthy economy starts with the entrepreneurs in the community - but I am not sure there is much funding or real economic investment from the city or county on this one.

The third is one I started with the CIO of the city after the Google Island initiative. It is made up of the "tech" leaders from the county, city, school board, hospital. This is definitely an active group or people who understand broadband and play a key role in our future broadband plans. I enjoy this group because it is truly a Task force - we are doing the work - and executing the plan.

There seems to be two key factors that I believe are related to the success or failure of each one of these groups. 1) Expertise and 2) Investment.  As I look at each person around the table at these meetings, I ask myself - How much expertise does this person have in what we are talking about - and how much (time/money) are they willing to invest?

To me - that is the Elephant in the room....

I just want to go around the table and simply ask "What is your expertise you bring to the table and how much are you willing to invest?"

Is that too much to ask??? Am I being rude or politically incorrect?

In my opinion, it would make a group stronger - and more effective... but I fear that the truth may also be exposed, and perhaps that is why we never ask the hard questions. We don't want to know that we lack the expertise for some of these difficult problems, or that the people that should be at the table are not - probably because they don't have the time to waste. And if we truly ask everyone at the table to make an investment of time and money - perhaps we fear the table would be empty before you could say the word - "accountability".

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Oil and Water...

It has been a confusing few weeks - almost surreal. Even after reading the reports, and following the news - its hard for me to understand what exactly is happening and why it is so difficult to solve. Unfortunately, we can't control what happened and we can only hope a bunch of smart people have a plan to fix what we have broken. So my focus on this blog, is to try to take a 30,000 foot perspective because the 20 foot perspective is too depressing.

So, here is what we know as fact:

1. Oil is underground.
2. Oil Company drills for Oil.
3. People buy Oil.

So, this may seem a little uncomfortable - but perhaps we need to look at #3 ... instead of focusing on #2.  Can we really live in a free market system with a straight face and protest Oil companies and then drive our Gas-powered car to the movies on Friday night? I am not completely unrealistic and expect everyone to stop buying oil or oil based products (because that would be about 80% of the stuff in your house) - but what I am advocating is reducing our waste of oil. There is a big difference in using oil to build products that we use effectively, and driving around town and burning gas just for the heck of it. (Florida is the 3rd biggest consumer of oil in the United States.)

Ironically, it seems we are arguing over POWER... how much POWER the Oil companies have and how they abuse it, and how little POWER the government has to stop this mess... but in reality neither of these entities have any power. We hold all the POWER. We make the decision whether to use oil or not. We make the decision on the future of energy. We hold all the POWER.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

HuB Fund to support local economy during Oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico

The HuB Fund, a 501c3 fund launched in partnership with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, is working on a plan to help local businesses address concerns that the local economy will be affected by the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Although we don't know if the oil will hit our beaches in Sarasota, we still need to take action to help educate out-of-state tourists that our beaches are currently unaffected." says Rich Swier, co-founder of the HuB. "Our goal is to leverage social meda and our production studio to drive a positive message and hopefully this will help educate people but also give encouragement to our local merchants that working together we can get through this challenging time."

The HuB has launched similar campaigns to help the local economy including "Google Fiber" and "I Love Downtown". Both campaigns were funded by the HuB with the goal of bringing awareness to Sarasota, Florida and also helping local merchants survive during the economic downturn.

"Our approach to bringing a community together is unique," comments Joey Panek, head of Social Media at the HuB, "we build a campaign primarily on the web using social media and interact with the community through video and conversation. Once we have engaged the community, it typically takes on a life of its own, and we no longer control or drive it - the community does. Which is exactly what we want."

More information on the HuB Fund is available at Donations are accepted online. Donations are tax-deductible.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Why we shouldn't measure success in Profit - and other wacky ideas...

I may get burned at the stake for saying this - but I believe we shouldn't meaure success of a business by looking at a Profit and Loss statement. Matter of fact, that goes for the whole system. It's what is breaking the entire spirit of the free market system, and its killing the entrepreneurial blood line that built our country from nothing.

The entrepreneurs that built America, and for that matter the world - didn't care about financial risk, or financial projections... they set their mind on changing the world. And many of them died broke doing so. Profit was not how they measured success, but rather the ability to make the world a better place - whether it was curing a disease, exploring new horizons or opening our eyes to new technology - the mission wasn't money - it was discovery.

The free market system works if the power is in the hands of the entrepreneur who can create new markets, build new revenue and grow our economy through innovation.... but it does not work when the free markets are dominated and controlled by banks, lawyers and brokers. And the only thing the financial system cares about is profit... and not only do they measure it - they manipulate it and distort it - to the point where is an abstract measurement of the future - and tells us nothing of the present.

The irony here - is that entrepreneurs create the future, and the financial "horde" sell the future. But what happens when the entrepreneur is no longer empowered.... what exactly is the "horde" selling?? ... nothing.

There is a clarity of judgement in an entrepreneur that few people understand. It is the idealism within an entrepreneur that allows them to risk everything for a vision - not based on financial gain, but of something greater. A purpose. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost inside the HuB?

I can't tell you how often get the question "what exactly is the hub?". Actually i can... About 10 times a day. I guess I should take full blame (or credit depending on your perspective).

It dawned on me last night while watching the final episode of LOST on tv (btw, if you are Matt Orr stop reading here, because I will reveal too much and ruin your week).

The television show Lost is about life and death, but it takes a less obtuse view that has been the cornerstone of religion, and actually puts a little science and interpersonal discovery into the mix. And for those who have watched the show I will do my best to explain what the HuB is by using analogies from Lost.

Ok... So first I look at the HuB much like the island....where we thought originally a bunch of random strangers were stranded after an airplane crash.... But as the show went on we realized that it was not randomness that brought them together but instead a very powerful connection between each one of the characters. Although I cant prove there is a dynamic force at play I have to believe that the HuB has a very similar power to the island - a magnetic force that draws creative people.

And although at first it seems highly random when I meet each of the new people that come into the hindsight it's obvious it is more than chance....a creative energy is present and seems to be growing stronger as we have a new member come onto our "island".

The other similarity is that there is a magical mix of trust, companionship and science. The show Lost does an amazing job touching some very powerful concepts like the effect of electromagnetic fields on time travel, and the power of human persuasion over nature. Although I don't think we will be building bunkers anytime soon... I feel like our quest to bring technology together with creativity follows the same path of discovery that we watched episode after episode trying to understand what the point of this damn show was??

So if you can explain the power of island... You can explain the hub. It is a place where people are drawn and find themselves challenged but also destined to build something new and redefine their community but also discover their ability to be creative and innovative beyond what they may have experienced outside the HuB.

I am not sure we all feel "lost".... But if we do... It's in the good way...we are looking at the world from a completely different perspective, and if  by being stranded on an island at first may make you feel like you are lost.... I can assure you that once inside the HuB you will never want to leave.

Oh yeah.... I haven't decided whether I am Jack or John Locke yet....but I know for a fact Matt is the swarthy guy with glasses. :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top 5 Reasons why we should brand Sarasota as "Creative Paradise"

Its not a new idea - just an idea that never seems to make it past committee. Sarasota needs a brand. (by definition a brand is what defines us and represents why we are unique). We can't just be "Your Beach Destination" or "Good Life. Good Business" (some of the more famous tag lines of Sarasota).

A brand is real, honest and embraced. Its not a tag line formed by committee. Of course everyone has their unique experience in Sarasota - and if you ask 100 people I am sure you would get 100 different descriptions... so by default a brand is inclusive and exclusive at the same time. But most importantly a brand needs equity - so you can sell whatever your selling. If its a weak brand, its a tough sell.

So I am going to make my case of why we should brand Sarasota as "Creative Paradise".

1. John Ringling - one of our founding fathers - and perhaps one of the most creative men in history. He was the original Walt Disney - the real Cirque du Soleil.... the first Creative Entrepreneur.

2. Arts Community - one of the most dynamic arts community for any city (much less a small city). Our Opera, Orchestra, Theatre and sub-culture of rising artists is bar none the best I have seen per capita in the world.

3. Beaches - There are many beaches in the world, but few beaches offer such a dynamic view of city scape, islands, beautiful architecture and the calm horizon of the Gulf. Sarasota is a true paradise.

4. Entrepreneurial Culture - We have a wide-range of entrepreneurs - different from the valley (where the typical entrepreneur is a Stanford grad - 28 years old, who worked at Google or Yahoo, and is spinning off a .com business). Sarasota's entrepreneurs are more art than science. They range from ages of 18 to 88 and their ideas are ambitious. Our unique advantage of having some of the smartest people in the world buy winter homes or retire to our coast gives us a rising class of entrepreneurs that has the potential to drive a new economy.

5. Education Institutions - Although we don't have the likes of an M.I.T in our backyard - we have two of the most heralded creative institutions in the world - Ringling College of Art and Design and New College. Both are recognized as producers of amazing talent that bring some of the most creative ideas to life. And beyond college, we also have Pine View and new Technical Institute - which redefine high school education for the 21st century.

Well that's my pitch...

Whether my brand is liked by many or few - I hope at least we can agree that we need to have all stakeholders in our community come to the table and agree on the message. We are competing with cities all across the world, and we have less capital and in many cases much less incentives to offer. So we better put together one hell of a sales pitch if we want the next generation to move here and help us build the Sarasota of the future..... or we may just end up like Detroit - 25 years too late and dead.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Five things we need to focus on... to build a Creative Class

I always used to believe if you write something down, it makes it real. I must have a million thoughts that go through my head each day, but unless it is written down, it never seems to get attention. So, here I am writing down what I believe we need to focus on to build a strong creative class in Sarasota, Florida.

1. SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. Any city looking to attract and retain creative minds, needs to offer a dynamic social environment. Entrepreneurs live where they want to, and rarely does economics come into play when choosing the place to start a company. Since a startup doesn't need much office space, tax incentives are meaningless, and funding is far and few between - the one thing that matters most is quality of life. Everything from a strong arts and culture base to a dynamic night life come into play - but more importantly they need to connect with social circles of other creative minds to truly feel at home.

2. A SALES PITCH. Building a city is not much different than building a business. You have a product, a budget and you need to find a market to sell. Sarasota is unique, because it has an awesome product - the beach. But it also has a bunch of secondary products that have tremendous value - strong arts community, economic assets like Mote, Ringling College, etc... and also has a rising "startup culture". However, we don't have a strong sales pitch. Our messaging is fragmented and for the most part very weak. We need to have a cohesive pitch and target the creative class... otherwise we can't close the deal.

3. INFRASTRUCTURE. Such a broad term, so let me be more specific. We need to build the 21st century highway - Fiber and Wireless networks. If we want to attract tech entrepreneurs, we need to give them the one thing they need more than anything - BANDWIDTH. Our city currently has two providers but they focus mostly on connecting homes, not businesses. And the current offering to businesses is not enough. We need to have 1GIG+ connectivity in designated zones to attract entrepreneurs. 

4. LEADERSHIP. Our current leadership was spawned from an economy based on tourism and real estate development. If we want to attract the creative class, we need to represent the creative class in leadership positions related to economic development. What if roles were reversed??? Would we have 10 artists on the EDC Board - if we wanted to attract Real Estate developers?

5. LEVERAGE EXISTING ASSETS.  It seems like every time the topic of Economic Development comes up - the conversation quickly becomes a "We need X, and We need Y" argument.  Instead of taking an honest look at what assets we have, and thinking "creatively" - we are always coming up with excuses what we can't.  For example - "We need a convention center if we want to attract conferences." - NO, we don't. We have the ability to host conferences with existing assets - we just need to be creative and re-invent how a conference can be done. We need to stop trying to be like other cities, and just be ourselves, and work with what we got.

I always believe its more important to prove a point... so here are three projects I have been involved in that have been highly effective and demonstrate some of the points above.

1. I LOVE DOWNTOWN ( - a campaign to unite downtown merchants and to market to locals and tourists the great experiences we have in downtown Sarasota. The campaign included posters around the city, a strong social media campaign, and promotions.  It's an example, of how a strong sales pitch and marketing campaign can help hundreds of businesses.

2. GOOGLE ISLAND ( - a campaign to compete for Google Fiber network. Thousands of cities applied to be considered for the Google Fiber Network rollout, and Sarasota was able to grab national attention through a very powerful campaign. The goal was to market Sarasota as an innovative city, but also fight for better broadband.

3. VINYL FESTIVAL ( - a music festival launched in 2009 for social development. The primary goal is to attract young entrepreneurs and the creative class. The music festival brings talented artists to the area, helps local businesses during the slow season (Summer) and puts Sarasota on the map as a hip/cool location for music lovers.

In summary - If we want to attract Creative people, we need to be Creative.

Friday, April 02, 2010



SARASOTA –Apr 2…Mike Love of The Beach Boys, the No. 1-selling American band of all time (Billboard) will take a spin in Sarasota’s first retro-fitted Electric Car to help raise awareness of “Project Green Machine”. The inaugural drive will happen on Tuesday, April 6th at 4:30pm at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall prior to the performance which begins at 8pm and Burgers on the Bay which begins at 5:30 pm on the Bayfront.

The Electric Car was built in a coordinated effort lead by Forrest Shaw, owner of Pastry Art and the HuB, lead by engineer Pete Hansen. Appropriately called “Project Green Machine”, Forrest and Pete want to demonstrate how local businesses can begin to embrace technology and position Sarasota, Florida as a leader in green initiatives.

The project has been documented on the website where the reconstruction of a 1969 Volkswagen Squareback begins and is retro-fitted with a state-of-the-art electric motor to bring the classic car to the 21st century.

“What we are doing here is demonstrating how easy it is to embrace green technology,” remarks Forrest Shaw. “As a local business, I want to show other businesses how they can take steps to reduce their emissions and preserve our environment”. Pastry Art is planning to use the converted VW Squareback to make deliveries to customers in the downtown area.

Rich Swier Jr, founder of the HuB explains the reason why they invested in Project Green Machine. “At the HuB, we support creative ideas that can really change our community, and this is exactly the type of project we want to support. Bringing together a group of entrepreneurs and executing a vision is what Sarasota is all about. We hope other businesses will get behind this initiative to preserve our beautiful city.”

For more information on the HuB, please visit or Project Green Machine at For more information and to buy tickets to the Beach Boys performance, contact the Van Wezel Box Office at 941- 953-3368 or log onto

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Letter to Sergey and Larry (founders of Google)

Sergey and Larry,

As you may know, everyone here in Sarasota, Florida is excited about the prospects of Google Fiber. Over the past few weeks, we have renamed an island, threw our mayor in a tank with sharks, and almost every business in town is called Google.  If these seem like stunts to simply get your attention...(well)... then you would be right. 

You see, Sarasota probably wouldn't even have been considered in your search for the best city. Probably because we are mostly known for our sunshine and beautiful beaches (like most of Florida). But now that we got your attention, our hope is you take the time to learn more about us.

So let me start off by giving you a little history... in the early 1900's, a man named John Ringling setup shop here and saw a bright future for his enterprise. He was one of the most brilliant entrepreneurs in American history, and he laid the foundation for our unique town by combining the bravado of entrepreneurship with the love or arts and culture. And to this day, we can see the evolution of his spirit in the fabric of our community and great institutions like the Ringling College of Art and Design - which is known nationally as the top producer of digital animation talent in the world.

Another one of our founders was Bertha Honore Palmer, who also was a lover of the arts and nature. Married to a successful entrepreneur in Chicago, they moved down to Sarasota to develop a new life. Much like her life, the legacy of nature conservation is seen through institutions like Mote Marine Laboratory which leads the world in marine research or projects like Florida's Power and Light largest Solar Plant is located here in Sarasota, Florida. Our appreciation for nature and quality of life is seen in how we apply technology.

I realize there are many factors that go into your decision. Clearly, if it was solely based on community support and outreach - we would definately be on the short list. So I took the liberty in putting together a few thoughts for you to consider as you go through your checklist:

1. Weather - You mentioned weather was a important to allow for a speedy deployment. Well, Sarasota weather is unbeatable. It is one of the reasons, Comcast used Sarasota as a test-market for its broadband rollout in the late '90s.

2. Market Diversity - Sarasota has a diverse population, specifically by the age demographic. If you are looking to get accurate adoption statistics, and understand conversion from dial-up or old broadband to the new fiber service, Sarasota will give you market research that accuraely reflects the age demographics of the country (which is the most important demongraphic for broadband adoption.)

3. Local Government Support - (come'on our mayor jumped into a shark tank...'nuff said)

4. Community Support - We currently rank top 5 cities in community support. Our Facebook Fans have gone through the roof, and through the support of the entire community we were able to coverage in over 100 newspapers and on all major TV stations.  Not bad, for a small town :)

5. Infrastructure - We got everything you need - a little dark fiber, poles, right-a-ways and we have two providers (Verizon and Comcast) that could be great partners in building out your test network.

So in summary... I know there are so many choices, and I am sure you may even already made up your mind on a few. But I know (deep down) there was a reason why you asked for community support. This is more than a business decision based on data... this is a decision that could use momentum. You are entering a new market, and no matter how well you plan it out... there will be road blocks. And the last thing you want to do is fight battles on territories that didn't even take the time to submit an application (much less name an island after you).

Maybe you didn't expect the overwhelming fervor over Google Fiber. Certainly you didn't expect cities doing crazy things...  but guess what.... they did. And despite the nay-sayers on those Silcon Valley blogs saying "the antics don't matter"... I think both of us know they do.  Because whether it was intended or not - you created a ground swell in certain parts of the country - and those "crazy" antics are now part of the conversation....

So all I ask.... is to take in consideration --  that there is a direct correlation to the buzz and support we have shown in nominating Sarasota - and the ultimate success you will have if you choose our community.

(anytime you want to visit, let me know... we would love to have you)



Saturday, March 13, 2010

If I were Google, what would I be thinking right now??

We all know Google is brilliant. They have cities renaming themselves, mayors jumping into freezing cold water, and yes (guilty as charged) - you can find me this weekend on Google Island, Sarasota Florida with a Google Daquiri in my hand....

Their aggressive announcement that they will be putting ultra-broadband in a few cities has created quite a stir in the telecom industry. What does this mean? Are they going to compete with existing providers? Work with them? Are they crazy? Nope. They are brilliant.

In a few days, the Federal Government and FCC will lay out their National Broadband Strategy. And guess what - its not good for the telecoms. It is putting pressure on them to build bigger and better networks, and its also pushing them to play nice in the sandbox. Is this a good thing? I am not sure anyone (except lobbyists) can say whether its good or bad.... but it is good for Google.

There is a shift happening - and I think Google sees it (or perhaps they are driving it). The Internet is currently a very closed network. It is owned and operated by a few players that have spent the money to build our the fiber, and bring us broadband.  But the writing is on the wall, to start looking at "opening" it up a bit. Perhaps its because we are ranked 27th in the world in broadband? Or it could be that some people feel the existing providers have just gotten lazy, and are not keeping up with Jones's.

And maybe Google isn't the only brilliant company out there. Maybe Verizon sees a window of opportunity. (marriage made in heaven). Verizon is deploying FIOS (fiber to the home)... and Comcast although they were first to market, they don't have fiber to the home (its Coax). Verizon is having a tough time penetrating a lot of the market, because they were late to market with FiOS. But now... imagine a lunch with the two CEO's of Google and Verizon... and as they order their chicken salad, Lowell (Verizon CEO) leans over and asks Eric (Google CEO) and says "Hey - want to be in the Telecom business?"

So what does this all mean???  Let's review:

1. FCC is pushing for telco's to open their networks
2. Google is looking to boost fiber to the home.
3. Verizon has fiber to the home, but needs capital/help gaining market share
4. Comcast has marketshare, but not fiber to the home.

This may be a perfect storm..... .

And guess what - Sarasota may be the perfect place to see how everyone plays nice in the sandbox.... and if things get a little tense... we can all go have a Google Daquiri, and sing "Don't worry, be happy"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mercury News covering Google Island

I love this...

A "Serious" Note on Google Fiber

I have received a lot of emails recommending we focus on the true assets of Sarasota, and not focus too much on the "sideshow tactics"... so I want to reassure everyone we are focused on the important stuff - but we also feel that the fun stuff gets people's attention a lot easier. For those who want to enter the discussion on a serious note, here is a list of things we believe needs to happen:

1. We need 10,000+ people from our city go to and fill out this form. Bottom line, Facebook Fan won't be enough (but it helps). We need to show overwhelming response from the community. My best guess on how many people have done it is around 500.

2. We need to form a "BROADBAND STRATEGY" for our community. The process we have gone through in the last few weeks has shown us that we need to have a plan in place. With our Without Google, it would be wise for us to have a well-thought thru plan constructed with input from business leaders that see broadband as a key to economic development.

3. We need to highlight "applications" that can demonstrate the value and power of a ultra-broadband network. Here are some organizations we are working with:
  1. Ringling College or Art and Design - Pre-Post Production, Digital Design
  2. Mote Marine - Collaborative Research, Video Conf, Webcasting
  3. Sarasota Memorial - Remote Care, Data Sharing
  4. The HuB - Data Centers, Tele-Commuting, Tech incubator
  5. Multiple Tech/Creative Businesses - Communications, Vertical Applications
4. We need our leaders to fight for us. The National Broadband Strategy is being announced next week, and I am sure many States will follow suit with broadband strategies as well. There is a lot of stimulus money going toward broadband infrastructure, and many companies are deploying fiber networks throughout the State of Florida. We need to have representation or we will lose out.

5. We need to continue to be Leaders in Technology and Creative industry. The Google Fiber campaign put us on a "map" of cities that understand the need for technology. We were the first and loudest city in the State of Florida. We need to maintain this brand, as an innovative community. Although we have a long way to go to claim our economy as "tech and creative"... we clearly have the capability, the assets and the desire to make the necessary change to move our community in the right direction. WE NEED to continue to build this brand.

So in summary... we are taking this serious, but there is a lot of work yet to be done, and we are depending on your (our) community support. Without a community with focus and purpose, noone will pay attention and nothing will be done.

Send letters to our leadership, asking them to form a Broadband Strategy, and help us improve our local economy... we can do this with or without Google (but don't tell them that yet)

My interview on CNBC

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Why we love Google Island?

Last month Google announced an initiative to brings ultra-broadband to a few cities in order to demonstrate 1-Gig connectivity to the home. Ofcourse the details are still unknown, but here is my take on how I think things will rollout.
First, broadband is a complex business to begin with. There are many providers, and they share fiber, buy fiber, lease fiber. Some cities (municipalities) own fiber. And after the telecom boom a while ago, a lot of companies put fiber in the ground, but ended up never deploying networks.
Companies like Comcast, Verizon has spent billions laying fiber down to bring broadband to the home (ranging from 5mb to 50mb)... which for most of us in our home is plenty of bandwidth. For business applications, there may be more desired.
So what if Google Fiber comes to Sarasota? Ofcourse, it would be a tremendous boost to our local economy and our brand as a city. But what about existing providers (Comcast/Verizon) - don't they already have fiber here? And ofcourse there are other providers like Level3 and FPL who have fiber coming through our city s well. My gut tells me that Google wants to work with these providers. Much like when Comcast was first deploying their network in 1997, Microsoft invested a billion dollars into Comcast to help them speed up the deployment. I think Google is trying to do the same. Light a fire under Internet providers to bring more bandwidth to the home. But in order to do this, they need to find a model that works in a couple of cities.
So what kind of issues will Google face?
1. Working with the goverment - they want to see how much hassle it is to work with cities/counties/towns. The application they are having cities submit will give them a good idea on who is willing to work with Google. They will also be looking at States, and their existing projects going on regarding fiber deployment, stimulus money, capital projects.
2. Working with existing Providers - Google doesn't want to dig and lay new fiber, so they are going to look for cities that may have available fiber... or have providers willing to work with Google in upgrading the network. Google has already shown their ability to work with internet providers over the past years signing peer agreements. Nobody knows what Google will bring to the table, and what the incumbent providers will bring to the table - but one thing is for sure they have a ton of cash - lots of motive for broadband - and they have a lot of experience in building ultra-broadband networks.
3. Working with Business Community - Google may be talking about bringing fiber to the home but they may be looking for a big win in the business community first. For example, connecting university, hospitals, schools, and business districts. This is referred to as the "middle-mile" - which actually will be a lot easier for Google to make happen.
Ultimately, I think Google realizes there are a lot of unknowns - and there is no better way to find out than to just do it. They understand the basics of building broadband networks (they have one of the biggest and baddest networks in the world between their data centers) - but they have yet to dive into the last-mile (with exception of some wifi projects).
There is also an interesting marketing angle here as well... by talking about deploying 1-gig to the home and getting millions of people excited, puts pressure on existing providers to start looking at potential competition. So, this could all be a head-fake (to some degree)... Google deploys a really awesome gigabit network in a city or two, and the nation becomes insanely jealous and starts demanding their providers make it happen. Either way it is a win-win for the consumer, but there are a lot of dominos that need to fall.
So, as we wait for Google to decide on where they deploy their first network - its important to take a step back and look at the big picture. First - there is a lot of fiber out there ready to be lit up - especially middle-mile - so whether Google does it or not... they may motivate someone else to do it instead. Secondly, it may not be too critical for us to have a gigabit network to our house right now (seriously, how much youtube do we need to download) - but what is more important is getting fiber to our schools, businesses, centers of innovation, labs and hospitals. So let's focus and start there first.... and not sweat it too much.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Social Media Fatigue

I am not sure if its a medical condition (yet)... but there is an epidemic of Social Media Fatigue (SMF) spreading quickly throughout the country as we speak. Carriers are bringing the virus into our communities - and there is nothing we can do.

What are the symptoms?

1. Do you find yourself logging into Twitter less and less? Have you given up on MySpace completely?

2. Are you losing control of your Facebook Friendships? Did you break the promise to yourself to only ACCEPT people who are actually your friends? Do you occasionally look at your profile and wonder how the hell you have 673 friends?

3. Does your LinkedIn profile still have you working at a job you quit 2 years ago?

If you have these or similar symptoms... you are experiencing the early signs of SMF.

Social Media Fatigue is going to change the world as we know it...why? Because social media is expecting you continue to login 5 times a day, check your latest tweets, update your fan page, and share your photos with the entire network. If you stop - they begin to fade. And who is to blame for SMF - we are - the Users. We lost our way.... the second we looked at Social Media as a way to make money, the minute we accepted a friend request that wasn't a friend and the day we decided to stop logging every day.

How do we stop it? I am not sure we can... but...if there is an "antidote"... it is simple. We (as users) need to make social media applicable. We need to make it useful in making our lives easier and our world a better place. If we are going to fight SMF we need to be cautious of how we use social media....and more importantly if we do use it - let's not abuse it. Make relationships count. Make communications meaningful. Make the network a better place.

If nothing else ---- Give to the network more than you take....

Friday, January 29, 2010

How everything on the web is quickly becoming useless...

Sometimes things move so fast, you don't even feel yourself spinning.. kind of like standing on the earth...or moving in a fast car.... you are moving - but you just don't feel it.

Well guess what - the Internet right now is moving faster than ever - and I am not sure its going the right direction (or atleast if it is - its leaving everything else behind).

People refer to the current web as "Web 2.0" - but I think that may have been a premature name - assuming you believe 2.0 has some reminense of 1.0. Sure we still have millions of 1.0 websites out there - but they are quickly becoming obsolete.

Nobody goes to websites anymore. We are not in Web 2.0 - we are in new dimension of the Web (lets call it WebOS - kind of catchy old name, for new Web).

So what does this mean? The Web is a platform for utilities (e.g. Applications). User behavior has changed.

BEFORE: Web Marketing = Lets launch a website. Register a cool domain.
NOW: Don't bother, noone will go there - and domains don't matter anymore.

BEFORE: Lets link to other websites, and get links back to our website
NOW: Nobody clicks on links anymore - the web is becoming homogeneus.

BEFORE: Hmmm, this banner ad looks interesting.
NOW: I hate any ad, and for spite I refuse to click.

BEFORE: Let's "surf" the web - click around and explore
NOW: I don't have time to surf or learn new sites - I know where to go to get what I need.

BEFORE: I want to Blog.
NOW: Noone is reading my Blog - I have no audience... I WANT TO POST!

BEFORE: Let me email my friends to see what is going on.
NOW: Why bother emailing, I'll just look at their Wall.

BEFORE: Let me search the web, and see how I can do that
NOW: There is an app for that.

As you can see my point is simple. User behavior has changed, and I am not sure its good for the web. The average number of websites a user hits per day is decreasing NOT increasing. The average user spends more time on a few sites (e.g. facebook), and doing less discovery.

This new phase of the Web, is less about the Internet (the magical tubes that connect us) and more about the Humans behind the device. And you don't need thousands of websites to connect humans. You only really need a few. (Is that good or bad?)

We are molding the Internet into a Human media, and building form factors and tools around specific functions (applications), and ignoring the old "websites". We don't realize it, but with every Tweet or Poke - we are killing a website. Our window to the web is shifting to mobile devices (which have never been web friendly). Take the Iphone. Do you use the IPhone to surf old websites? Probably not. You download an app, and run the app. Going to the browser becomes more of a hassle.

Why are websites dying? Its actually pretty logical if you think about it. A website isn't human. It doesn't talk. It's doesn't communicate. It doesn't show emotion. It's not real-time.

If you think about it - we should be surprised they lasted as long as they did.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why Social Media is Local

It seems like every conversation I have with people (especially marketing folks) about Social Media - they always talk in terms of Global.... and I am not sure that is the right way to measure social media.

A popular tidbit everyone throws out is "Facebook has over 350M users!!!". Which I admit is impressive - but in reality its a similar stat to "There are 25,000 McDonalds in the world". Which is another impressive stat. But the reality is I have only been to maybe 10 different McDonalds in the last few years - and for the most part I go to one or two close by (e.g. locally).

I am sure everyone I know has eaten at McDonalds at least once or twice - and some people every week. Probably a lot like Facebook. Some of my friends update their status daily or even hourly, and some still have "RIP Michael" as their status.

So is McDonalds a Global Company? Sure, but we don't really think of it that way... we think of it as a local fast food restaurant. We know its everywhere - but we really only care about the one closest to where we live.

I think Social Media is more like McDonalds than we think.

Sure, we all have friends in other states (or even other countries) - but do we really see them that often or even comment on their wall a lot? Or do we really connect more with friends who live closeby or work with us on a daily basis?

What percentage of your Friends live nearby? Probably 80% at least? So doesn't that make Social Media LOCAL?

What events and pictures do you see come across your wall or news feed? Are they nearby? probably... so doesn't that make it LOCAL?

Social Media should be defined from the user perspective NOT by the perspective of the entire network (top down).

FACEBOOK is not 350 Million networked users, just as much as the world is not 5 Billion connected humans. Facebook is a network of 130 friends (see stats) (average number of friends a user has on Facebook). Facebook is not a network of millions of fans - most pages have less than 1,000 fans and are regional in focus.

So if you are looking to engage with Social Media, and looking to market your business - you need to not forget that social media marketing is more like local media marketing than you may think.