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.