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.