Top 5 Reasons Why Equity Crowdfunding is a Catalyst for Economic Growth!

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Now that Texas has become the 13th state where small businesses are allowed to solicit funds in exchange for equity, I find several advantages for growing the economy.  This disruption of traditional accredited investor practices yields new opportunities through alternative financing. (ie – Equity Based Crowdfunding) Finally, the little guy has a place at the table.  I am so glad I moved here from DC back in April 2013.  At first the heat was getting me down, but now I see the catalyst for economic growth.  Don’t get me wrong, Texas has many economic advantages for living here, but this new law will make it even more desirable.

I fully understand the trials of obtaining financing for any business deal, then to be heaped upon by another barrier to entry, the accredited investor (millionaire status).  No matter who you are in the United States of America with a great product or service that society needs and wants, you can have a shot at the American Dream through Equity Based Crowdfunding.  If you don’t have a great idea, you can still own a piece of someone elses great idea.  Only drawback is that you will have to move to Texas or any of the other 12 states allowing intrastate Equity Based Crowdfunding.  The opportunities are alive and well.

Real Estate

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There is a built-in caste system in real estate: those with money and those without it.  Well, it used to be that way, but now there is a chance for those people that spend their weekends with the latest real estate guru claiming to teach them the SECRET of how to invest and flip property. The only SECRET is that you need money.  With equity-based crowdfunding you can do more than flip one or two properties: you can buy commercial property, build subdivisions, rehab old office buildings into condos, and convert brown sites into green sites. Did I mention Data Centers?  The sky’s the limit.  There are multiple platforms to choose from: PatchOfLand, RealtyShares, Groundfloor, Groundbreaker, EarlyShares, PropFunds, FundRise, EquityNet, and RealRite, to name a few.  There are many options for participating.

Energy

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Oil and Gas

I’ll be honest, the only thing that I know about oil and gas I learned from watching “The Beverly Hillbilly’s”.  The politics and pollution parts I know all too well.  But I will not begrudge a person to make a profit. I just wish oil companies would come up with cleaner ways of doing business. So for you would-be oil speculators, you may be able to fund a single well, or multi-well oil and gas drilling projects through a company called EnergyFunders.  If you strike oil, black gold, or that Texas Tea, remember who told you first.  I’ll go on record, I want a 1% cut.

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Alternative Energy

According to Mosaic, “Alternative energy is power that comes from nontraditional and non-polluting sources like the sun and wind. For centuries people have harnessed the renewable power from the sun (for heating and light) and wind (for transportation), but its use fell out of favor around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Now nearly 200 years later, we are realizing the dangers posed by burning fossil fuels to the environment, economic costs caused by rising prices, as well as national security risks from dependence on foreign energy sources. At the same time, non-traditional energy sources are experiencing prices drops as innovation and market maturity take hold. Outside of wind and solar energy, other types of alternative energy include geothermal, tidal, and biomass.” There are multiple platforms to choose from such as: Mosaic, SunFunder, Palmetto, Collective Sun, and OurCrowd, to name a few.  Mosaic goes on to say, “Over half the states could have rooftop solar that’s as cheap as local electricity prices by 2017. Solar energy is currently the fastest growing segment of the renewable energy market.”

The Solar Foundation’s highly anticipated National Solar Jobs Census 2013 found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans as of November 2013. This figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar workers over the previous year, representing 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. During the period covered by the Census, solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment rate of 1.9 percent.

Tech-Startups

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Whether you need a few thousand dollars to build a prototype with 3D Printing, or you are writing software code for your stealth project, you will probably need seed money to get started.  Not all campaigns are successful, especially if your product is a dud.  At the same time, you may have built the best thing since sliced bread, but it doesn’t mean a thing if nobody knows about it, and you can’t get the project off the ground.  Equity Crowdfunding gets your project in front of more investors, and helps you gain customer validation.  This will make your life much easier in future rounds of financing if necessary.  There are multiple platforms to choose from like: Startup Valley, OurCrowd, AngelList, CircleUp, CrowdValley, Fundable, Launcht, SeedInvest, VentureHealth, and RockThePost, to name a few.

America doesn’t make things anymore, and we need to change that.  We need software developers, inventors, and makers.  Tech startups create high paying jobs, something every economy needs.

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Energy Civic & Community Projects

State and local governments should take notice when budgets are cut in half. Civic Crowdfunding is a disruptive way to raise funds for community projects like parks, marinas, and roads. It can also fund school projects not funded by the state.  It can help fund local non-profits that benefit the community so the government does not have to.  My personal belief is that cities should upgrade their workforce with job training in software development, manufacturing technology, and 3D Printing.  A great example of that is the FlatIron school in New York.  I plan to duplicate that school here in San Antonio Texas through the South Texas Technology Council, but the only difference will be that it will be crowdfunded through donation based crowdfunding.  If you, or someone you know, has an interest in Civic Crowdfunding, you should attend Kickercon.

Energy Performing Arts

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Music

I don’t know about you, but music is getting worse.  I believe true artisans that actually play instruments, have been drowned out by the synth-pop, hip-hop, no-message culture.  I believe that if you are going to write a song that you have to be able to look your parents in the eye and sing it. If not, maybe reconsider what you are writing is garbage.  I blame primarily the music industry that distributes that garbage.  Now there are thousands of great musicians and bands out there that are just struggling to get by.  They probably don’t know how to self promote themselves through social media because they are too busy starving as an artist.  Well I have to break it to you, you have to be part musician, part business person, and may have to crowdfund your first album.  You are in luck because their are tons of music platforms out there, such as: Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, PledgeMusic, Sellaband, RocketHub, ArtistShare, Artiste Connect, ArtSpire, GigFunder, Pozible, to name a few.

Now keep in mind, most if the platforms are not equity based, but musicians have to watch every penny, but that is not true with the film industry.

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Film

Back when I lived in the DC area, I had the fortune of meeting one of the creators of the “Blair Witch Project” a $248M blockbuster with a budget of $25,000.00.  They used an outdated Hi-8 Camera for the whole deal.  Back then, $25,000 for a film was unheard of, but even more disturbing is that they used social media to pitch that movie and got Hollywood’s attention. Hollywood was not prepared for what happened after that. Tons of Indie films creeping into the industry.  Nowadays several movies are getting crowd funded by wealthy notables already in the business. From Zach Braff to Spike Lee, to Mr. Joe the Plumber.   So what this means is that creativity has come full circle.  Just a few years ago, somebody discovered Justin Bieber on YouTube. (I’d like to punch that guy) You can make a film and it may sell.  You can invest in a film that may sell.  But you have to obtain a filming budget.  Most cities have have incentives for filming in their city, so check there first, then start a campaign.

There are multiple platforms to choose from like: IndieCrowdFunder, CinemaShares, MediaShares, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, to name a few.

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So in theory, more real estate deals, more solar panels, more tech startups, more civic projects, more films, more musicians not starving make equity based crowdfunding the most disruptive economic development tool on the planet.  Every city should have it’s own platform.  Join us @ www.kickercon.com

 

Crowdfunding Disruption: How will it change society?


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Crowdfunding Disruption:  How will it change society?

I love when I hear some pundit say crowdfunding should not be taken seriously, or it is not real investing.  AS IF…  I didn’t know this 10 months ago, but I know it now.  Crowdfunding is revolutionary and it disrupts so many layers of the sales process that I have write about it.  Let’s just state the obvious.  To be in business you must sell a product or service that people want and/or need.  To get that business off the ground you need financing.  Traditional financing has been put on notice.  I mean, why should an entrepreneur subject themselves to that sort of torture when they can crowd fund it?  I’m not saying that it is a panacea, but when done correctly, it can be highly successful.

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Traditional Financing through banks, venture capitalists

In my most humble and accurate opinion, title III has been taking so long because the SEC has been getting pressure from the fat cats on Wall Street.  There is no reason to pay commissions and fees to an organization, when the average platform charges between 1% and 5%.  Be that as it may, the blood is in the water and the sharks are swimming. And in some cases devouring great opportunity.  Look at the recent success of Oculus Rift and Facebook.  Out of nowhere a company raises $2.5 million on Kickstarter then gets bought by Facebook for $2 Billion dollars.  You better believe some investors are trolling Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for the next big deal.

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Research and Development (R&D)

Let’s say you have a product idea for a startup or an existing business, but funds are short after monthly expenses.  When you are a startup, you won’t have a billion dollars of R&D budget like Microsoft.  You have to be agile and guerilla market that deal.  Crowdfunding on a rewards based platform is a great way to kill three birds with one stone.  You are able to build your prototype or working model, and you are able to prove customer validation through a successful crowdfunding campaign.  The successful campaign has actually done your public relations, your sales pitch, your story, and your market penetration – all-in-one.

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Main Street Projects

My favorite campaign to date is Solar Roadways.  This project was vetted and funded twice by the US Federal Highway Administration. It won the GE Ecomagination Challenge “Powering the Grid 2010”, and maintained the most votes in 2011.  Of course this project was highly successful, but would the traditional investors show their love for Solar Roadways?  I think not.  I think banks would be reluctant to invest in solar roadways because of politics.  But we don’t have to worry about that because Solar Roadways is busy getting work done in and around Idaho.

My favorite platform, next to IndieGoGo is Solar Mosaic, for obvious reasons.  When the states and banks won’t finance your solar panel project talk to my friends over at Solar Mosaic.  They have a plan for you. Other projects I like for personal reasons are Qardio and RevoLights.  I need to keep in shape at my age, but carrying a BP cuff is out of the question unless I have Qardio.  Living in the Texas heat, and waking up late doesn’t bode well for bicycle riding unless I do it at night.  That’s where RevoLights come into play. Trust me, it’s only 80 degrees at night versus 100+ degrees during the day.  But my all-time favorite product so far is Ministry of Supply.  Their clothing satisfies my uber tech geek factor to the tenth power.  Let’s face it, the best thing that came out of Will Smith’s last movie “After Earth” was the clothing that adapted to the environment. Am I right? C’mon.

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Direct Response Television (DRTV)

Wait! Stop! There’s more! For this free introductory offer you also get… If that’s not crowdfunding, I don’t know what is.  I don’t know if Crowdfunding will totally disrupt DRTV, but I think DRTV needs to find a collaboration point with these platforms or create their own.  The way people buy in the future will be dictated by mobile and the Internet of Things.  That’s a whole technology blog for another time.  The baby boomers are the last remaining shoppers watching the shopping channels.  It will be interesting to watch this whole process develop.  Shopping as we know it is on the verge of rapid change.

So, in short, I feel a change is in the air.  A sort of positive revolution through exponential times.  In this age of social media it really is ‘Who do you know?’ and ‘How many do you know?’

Join us @ www.kickercon.com

 

Equity Based Crowd Funding in the wake of the Mortgage Meltdown

Equity Based Crowd Funding in the wake of the Mortgage Meltdown

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I dabbled in real estate as a mortgage banker for one hot minute (2002-2008).  I learned what an accredited investor was by accident.  As mortgage deals were drying up and deal flow came to a screeching halt, I pursued other avenues of revenue.  I sold retirement land in the Coastal Carolinas, while coaching real estate investors on obtaining good deals, and doing short sales.  The land sales were more fun because it was positive, while the mortgage industry was turning negative.  Talking about fun in the sun waterfront property is better than discussing foreclosures and short sales.  Unfortunately, there was plenty negative to go around. Naturally, I phased into land sales and coaching.  I would do presentations in various venues stacked with professional and non-professional investors.  Some were buying land on spec, others wanted to retire there.  All in all, everybody had their own dream of success. 

The presentations were so successful that I had an epiphany, what if I get a bunch of investors together and we all pitch in and buy a property?  Right. I told my manager about my awesome idea, and he chuckled, “Not if you want to go to jail! That’s an SEC violation, you have to be an accredited investor.” I said, “What’s an Accredited Investor?”

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Accredited Investor

Accredited investor is a term defined by various countries’ securities laws that delineates investors permitted to invest in certain types of higher risk investments including seed money, limited partnerships, hedge funds, private placements, and angel investor networks. The term generally includes wealthy individuals and organizations such as banks, insurance companies, significant charities, some corporations, endowments, and retirement plans.

In the United States, for an individual to be considered an accredited investor, they must have a net worth of at least one million US dollars, not including the value of their primary residence or have income at least $200,000 each year for the last two years (or $300,000 together with their spouse if married) and have the expectation to make the same amount this year. 

In layman’s terms, you have to be rich to have access to the good deals.  Being a poor investor is like going to Las Vegas and being able to only play the slot machines, while the others get to play at the big money poker tables.  That was back in 2002-2008, cut to 2012 enter the JOBS Act.  My dream of putting a bunch of investors in a room can quickly become a reality.  The only difference is that I can put my idea online and let others around the world participate.  All legal, of course thanks to Crowdfunding.  Now all we need is for the SEC to finish their job of approving the bill. Amen?

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Commercial Deals

Success through cooperation has never been sweeter than being able to crowdfund any project, anywhere.   I learned a few tricks on how to divide and conquer commercial real estate by subdividing properties and selling them off.  Or assuming the lease, buying a brown field on the cheap, and converting it into a green space, etc. I once saw an apartment complex, which went for a little over a million in Cabarrus County, North Carolina.  We even looked at the old Washington Post Printing Plant downtown DC, which we wanted to convert into a neutral data center. I knew that was a good idea because Verizon bought it for their own data center.  I even became a member of the National Capital Area United States Green Building Council.  None of those strategies mean a thing, if you can’t buy the property.  The latest craze is to take a commercial building in a blighted part of town and convert the upper floors to office and condos, and maintain retail on the first floor. 

Thanks to Crowdfunding, I can realize those dreams once again.  This is very good news for the people that had dreams of real estate ownership, but lacked the capital.  So once I learn everything I can at the Real Estate Summit @ Kickercon, I will get back in the practice of researching commercial real estate deals using crowdfunding and economic development.   We have a great line up of speakers from various platforms, including: IndieGoGo, PatchofLand, RealtyShares, GroundFloor, and Emition. More platforms to come.

All the Ladies in the Crowd Get Money!

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This blog is dedicated to the fairer sex — women.  Why?  Because women are go-getters!  They sell more, create more, and simply do more, especially when it comes to starting businesses these days.   Most guys won’t admit it, but they usually will hire a woman to get the tedious tasks done (otherwise known as a “work wife”).  Now that may not be politically correct to say, but it’s totally true….Just sayin’!

Fact is, before the JOBS ACT TITLE II provisions opened the market to accredited investors, and allowed companies and funds to raise capital through general solicitation to the market, women were more apt to start a new entrepreneurial adventure before their male counterparts. They did so due to necessity, dissatisfaction with the Corporate World, and/or to simply live out a huge dream.

These days limitations to finance are practically non-existent, some sense, for women and men. There is absolutely no reason why anyone can’t raise capital to get a business started.  In particular, crowd funding is now allowing more women to blossom as financial players, and in turn, opening more doors for everyone.

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For example, take a look at Ministry of Supply and its co-founder, Kit Hickey, one of those rare women who graduated from MIT Sloan School of Business. Hickey is a guest speaker at the Kickercon: Crowd Funding Conference & Expo, to be held in Houston.  Let’s just say her products are “Space Age.” Where else can you find clothing that uses totally cool techno-advanced materials and processes to create highly comfortable and unique clothing pieces? Every geek on the planet should be buying her men’s shirts and pants. If you don’t find this concept totally awesome, then you have no emotion.  Thanks, Sal Khan. www.ministryofsupply.com

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Lisa Qiu, CEO of Nomiko, was described by one of her colleagues as a high-energy, super-smart person who knows everybody.  She’s a social hub who knows how to make connections between people, and is extremely passionate about creating an amazing experience for her customers.  Did I also mention she can cook?  Her company, Nomiko, designs and builds the world’s most approachable immersion circulator for sous vide cooking.  www.nomiku.com

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As Co-Founder and first CEO of Zipcar, Robin Chase helped pioneer the Collaborative Economy. Today, Zipcar is the largest car-sharing company in the world. Recognized as both a thought leader and an in-the-trenches practitioner, Robin is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences (she’s given over 150 talks in the past two years) and is regularly profiled by the media.  www.zipcar.com

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Helen Greiner is Co-Founder of iRobot and Cyphy Works.  Since age 11 her goal always has been to create robots. Now this dream has been refined –and fulfilled – by her firm’s ability to create robots helping people do the lion’s share of dull and dirty chores. Helen believes understanding biological systems helps humans build better robots, and building robots helps humans better understand biological systems. Her long-term goal? Nothing short of understanding the nature of intelligence. www.cyphyworks.com

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Pamela R. Contag, Ph.D., is CEO of Cygnet Biofuels and CSO of Origen Therapeutics. Dr. Contag founded four venture-backed start-up companies:  Xenogen Corp. (completed a public offering in 2004 and was subsequently acquired); Cobalt Technologies (now in product demonstration); Cygnet Biofuels (develops low-cost enzymes); and ConcentRx (a novel therapeutic for oncology indications). Dr. Contag was named one of the “Top 25 Women in Small Business” by Fortune magazine.  www.cobalttech.com

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Ping Fu is a Chinese-American entrepreneur who co-founded 3D software development company Geomagic. Ping was its CEO until February 2013, when the company was acquired by 3D Systems Inc.  www.geomagic.com

Those are just a few of the many examples of women making things happen on their own.  As crowd funding becomes more popular and powerful, I think women will rule the world all that much faster.  With platforms like SpringBoard, Moola Hoop, Plum Alley and over 200 crowd-funding platforms, how can they fail?

 

 

 

 

Crowd Funding Can Ignite Economic Development

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www.kickercon.com

Crowd Funding Can Ignite Economic Development

When I was approached by Justin Ryan, CEO of Sircap, in December 2013 about partnering with his organization to promote Kickercon, I had a very vague idea of crowd funding.  I had heard of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and kind of understood the concept, but didn’t put any real thought into it.  As I jumped into this venture with my already tight schedule of work and starting a non-profit, I quickly realized this is something pretty major.  In fact, I think it is a major disruption in financing and venture capital.  Of course, as with anything new there is a hype-cycle that comes with it.  I’m sure the web addresses with the word ‘crowd’ have all been taken up by now.  There will be charlatans, fraud, deception and crowd-washing, but there will also be tremendous amounts of opportunities for all.  I won’t go into detail about the 100 ways to use crowd funding in this blog, I will try to stick to how I could use it as an economic development tool for the South Texas Technology Council.

The South Texas Technology Council is a non-profit trade association designed to be economic development and workforce training organization designed to inspire homegrown technology ventures, and influence tech companies to relocate to the region.  The purpose is to help the community-at-large, at-risk youth, disadvantaged citizens, and military veterans gain knowledge and expertise in the various technical fields. In short, get real tech training, for real tech jobs, at real tech companies.  Lofty goals, I know, but they are necessary goals.  San Antonio is my father’s hometown; Corpus Christi is my mother’s hometown, so I put it on myself to be productive in the community.  As a veteran, I owe it to my comrades in arms to help them succeed, too.

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We are in the process of incorporating the South Texas Technology Council with LegalZoom and the State of Texas.  We have seven great initiatives to work on for the organization, but before we get there we need a facility for offices, training rooms, and conference rooms.  Since I am a proponent of environmental sustainability and past member of the National Capital Region LEED Association, I will be looking for an old building to rehab and modify for sustainability.  As a new venture with no backers this can be financially overwhelming.  With the advent of new solicitation and crowdfunding laws, our members and investors can see transparency, low minimums, project by project investment and ease of transaction that can set the stage for real change in South Texas. PatchOfLand would be the perfect crowd funding platform for such an endeavor. www.patchofland.com   A great example of crowdfunding for real estate would be Silicon Island. http://siliconisland.crowdtilt.com/  Granted they have huge backers from top ten tech companies, it can be done on a small scale.

Solar Power

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After we have procured the building, it would be time to add solar panels.  There would be no better place to raise funds than Mosaic.  As a non-profit, I do not see any reason to maintain an electric  bill. Mosaic connects investors to high quality solar projects. Their mission is to open up clean energy investing and fundamentally change the way energy is financed.  As they say, the fundamentals of solar makes it an attractive component of a diversified investment portfolio: reliable technology, predictable energy output, and stable cash flows.  According to their website, every project is carefully vetted and structured to minimize risk while maximizing benefits to investors and the planet. https://joinmosaic.com/

Community

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I was fortunate to see IndieGoGo at SXSW, last month. Really nice folks, I look forward to working with them.  One of the council’s initiatives is for Workforce Job Training. If you watch the migration patterns over the years in America, people seem to migrate wherever there are good jobs. The fertilizer for good jobs is economic incentives, resources, real estate, and a trained workforce. I envision a Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) style training program for software development, network engineering, and information security. Real technical certifications, so people can get trained and go out and get real tech jobs.  I think it is shameful that overpriced colleges and universities are slow to adopt training programs that can actually help a student get a real job.  I also think it is a great economic development initiative to have an educated workforce to attract high tech companies.  IndieGoGo’s community platform would be an excellent place to start a campaign.  www.indiegogo.com

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Since I mentioned fertilizer for tech businesses, the most challenging initiatives are larger in scope, and may require a study beforehand.  They are the Broadband Initiative and the Data Center Initiative.  If we are to attract tech companies to South Texas, you need a minimum of three things, ping, power, and pipe.  The data must flow.  I had the opportunity to work with the Mid Atlantic Broadband Cooperative out of Virginia, and I envision an neutral broadband fiber ring built in two phases, possibly three, that connect Laredo, McAllen, Corpus Christi, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.  The Broadband Initiative creates connections between technology and people to revitalize communities in South Texas. By delivering high speed broadband access across underserved communities, The Broadband Initiative opens doors for businesses to locate operations across Southern Texas with confidence they have reliable broadband access at any capacity level.  It will operate an open-access network that enables businesses to work with the communication provider of their choice to secure diverse network access.  As a non-profit entity, we reinvest in community programs that support the primary mission of creating jobs by attracting new businesses to the region.

The other Initiatives include: Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Nanotechnology, Robotics, and Green Tech.  So be on the lookout in the coming months for crowd funding campaigns for economic development.  I heard someone say, we are in exponential times, and we must act accordingly.  www.kickercon.com

More information about the South Texas Technology Council can be found here www.stxtechcouncil.org or on LinkedIn Groups.

The 3 Main Obstacles Facing CIO’s Delivering BYOD!

The 3 Main Obstacles Facing CIO’s Delivering BYOD!

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In general, the CIO’s dilemmas are numerous. They are asked to cut costs, while building new capabilities, be more efficient, while being more responsive, standardize, while allowing customization, be very secure, but allow for open systems, make IT predictable, while making business agile, execute flawlessly, while thinking strategically. And last, reach enterprise goals, while reaching business unit goals. That’s why they get paid the big bucks. But now a vast number of C-Level Execs want to use their iPad and iPhone for work (runs on iOS), while the CIO needs to be able to secure and manage corporate data. Additionally, they want to use that Apple Mac Desktop and Laptop (runs on OSx). Don’t forget the Android and Samsung users. They want to play, too.
CIO’s are asked to juggle all of these issues and do it one handed. The way I see it, they have 3 main obstacles to delivering BYOD, which are in addition to security and compliance, and they are platform specific. They must address the following: (1) Windows Platform (2) Apple Mac Platform (3) and Mobile Device Platforms.

Windows Platform

For the most part, organizations have a pretty good handle on the windows platform. They have three main flavors to choose from when it comes to desktop virtualization. They are VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft. There are others coming on the scene, but nobody will be fired for using the Big 3. I personally, do not have a problem with the Big 3, just on how they deliver the desktop virtualization. Traditionally, they are built on the Server/SAN architecture. Problem is, Server/SAN architecture works great for Servers, but it is horrible for Desktop Virtualization. Or should I say unique user profiles.

Let me explain in greater detail. Organizations try desktop virtualization with the Server SAN/ Architecture in the lab with 10 to 50 users, which performs moderate to robust. Once they put it into production, all manner of trouble breaks loose. All of a sudden there is a denial of service attack on the SAN. Ever wonder why engineers are overly concerned with IOPs when it comes to storage and virtualization? These overpriced servers are just indexing the compute over to the SAN, and the SAN cannot handle the load.

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V3 Systems has solved this dilemma with their V3 Desktop Cloud Computing Solution. Not only have they addressed the Server/SAN Architecture problem in relation to desktop virtualization, they have engineered a virtual desktop that performs 8 times faster than your local desktop. When was the last time your users preferred to use their virtual desktop over the local desktop? NEVER! Just ask a V3 Systems User which they prefer: local desktop or virtual machine.

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As far as performance and reliability, V3 Systems has high availability and failover capabilities with V3 Desktop Cloud Orchestrator (DCO) Software. If you have built the best desktop virtualization hardware on the market, it deserves to have equally solid software management layer. I believe DCO to be equivalent to VMware’s vMotion technology, with one exception: that they move all VMs to another appliance for failover. Note: V3 Systems works with VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft.

Another challenge with delivering desktop virtualization in a Server/SAN Architecture is the cost associated with getting it to perform. If you have ever delivered VDI in a Server/SAN Architecture you quickly realize it is like throwing your money into a black hole. You’ve just purchased all this software, and now you find yourself throwing hardware at the performance problem. You throw more Servers, SANs, NAND Flash, just to get it to perform almost as good as the local PC. V3 Systems is plug-and-play into your existing architecture off-loading the compute to the ultra-fast V3 appliance. No need to get rid of your existing architecture or add copious amounts of hardware. Be ready to rock in no time at all. The ROI with V3 Systems is in 2-3 day delivery vs. 2-3 week delivery for traditional VDI deployments, and the up to 50% reduction of cost in hardware and software, while increasing performance.

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Apple Mac Platform

Last year I was on a conference call with a major bank, which will not be named, that recently merged with another bank. They had a significant Apple Mac presence, but they could not figure out a legal scenario to deliver corporate Macs, while maintaining security and compliance. I wish I could have helped them at the time, but I had no solution for Apple’s EULA, but now I do. That’s right, we can now deliver Apple Desktop Virtualization, legally.

Let’s be completely honest, BYOD does not mean bring your own device, it really means bring your own Mac. BYOD is a growing trend which can’t be stopped. It provides a cost savings, increased productivity, and improved user experience. If you have been paying attention, Apple’s stock is a good bet. BYOD represents a significant problem for the CIO. IT staff are accustomed to having control over the Windows desktop, but with the Mac user local Admin rights are on the Mac. This means the user can change security settings, and put the company at risk of data loss and regulatory compliance. I did not know this because I have not personally converted to Mac, yet.

Additionally, Mac users use Mac software, and occasionally need access to Windows software. Now imagine your IT department worried about data loss on Macs when they may or may not be accustomed to Apple Mac Software. I ran into a company called Orchard Parc. Honestly, I can’t remember if I find them or they found me, but I loved what they had to say. Orchard Parc’s OPUS for Macs resolves these issues, while maintaining compliance with Apple’s EULA. Imagine a dual persona Mac which IT maintains control, security, and compliance.

OPUS is designed specifically to bridge the gap between consumer Apple devices, and enterprise IT infrastructure, and restore control of the desktop and data. Now the IT department does not have to worry about application delivery, data security and user profile management for both personal and corporate Macs. The OPUS Server Virtual Appliance provides all the benefits of virtual desktop technologies, including: central management, data security, and lower costs.

The OPUS Server can be launched from VMware and Citrix XEN server technologies, and the Intel Hybrid Cloud to provide high performance, business continuity, automated backup and failover, and affordable disaster recovery. I must admit, I’m just like typical IT Managers; I have worked primarily in the Windows environment. That being said, Apple Macs in the enterprise are no longer a challenge.

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One observation I have noticed regarding healthcare and legal is that they are no stranger to Apple Macs and Devices. I’m curious to how they are implementing IT security and compliance without the help of IT. Furthermore, how are they staying in compliance with Apple’s EULA if they are not using OPUS? There are major crackdowns on medical facilities for HIPAA violations. In other words, a doctor or lawyer that gets their Apple Mac or iPad stolen is liable for a HUGE violation for losing client and/or patient data. With central management and control, IT can render the lost or stolen device useless. How’s that for ROI?

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Mobile Device Platforms

Just like Windows and Apple Mac platforms, mobile devices pose a grave security threat. But where would we be without our mobile devices. It was just yesterday (1990) when I saw my first Brick Phone up close and personal. It was 1988 when I was ordered by my LT Commander to go up to the 2nd floor and send a fax. I think it took me 20 minutes to send that fax. Here we are now in 2013 with smart phones and tablets. Hackers are brushing up their skills to exploit the latest mobile technologies, so we must brush up our skills on mobile device management and security. In a perfect world, the IT department could just outlaw mobile devices altogether, but that would stifle productivity and breed more competition.

I consider AirWatch, MobileIron, Citrix and Good Technology the forerunners in Mobile Device Management and Security. But don’t take my word for it; you can download the Gartner Magic Quadrant from MobileIron to see for yourself.

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I am currently, considering a partnership with AirWatch because they are the clear market leader according to the report, but my colleagues tell me that all of them are very similar. The only difference seems to be market share. Of course, if you are a Citrix shop, you probably will go with XenMobile. If you need more security, try Precise Biometrics for Government usage. I think they take authentication a step further. I’m not going to expound upon Mobile Device Development because it is very new for me. Until now, it has been theory ever since I downloaded my Citrix Receiver to my mobile phone back in 2010 while watching the demonstration at Citrix Synergy. I haven’t needed to address mobile device management issue until now! I assume that goes for everyone else, too!
Conclusion

One thing is clear, corporations are demanding BYOD. The key is to be smart about it. Realize that mobile users do not comprise the entire enterprise. It may be only necessary for the field sales, C-level Execs, or Field Engineers. No need to purchase user licenses for the entire staff when only a percentage will use these new technologies. My suggestion is to start to address these issues one at a time. The goal is to be able to compute anywhere at any time, while maintaining security and compliance.

 

 

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mobile App Business Cards

Mobile App Business Cards

Mobile App Business Cards

Cloud Washing: Slapping Lipstick on a Pig!

slapping lipstick on a pig

Recently, I was having a conversation with my colleague, Brian Lenane, Program Manager with SRA International about what’s going on with cloud computing offerings. He related to me how customers are confused with all the “Cloud Washing” going on. Truthfully, if I didn’t know what’s going on, I’d be confused, too. So many companies have called themselves cloud providers when they are nowhere near the cloud. I told him “Thanks, that will be my next blog.” Unfortunately, that was back in September 2012. I found myself transitioning from job to consulting via my personal company, VerdeSol LLC. Being laid off during the holiday seasons seems to be a theme for me in 2011 and 2012, but the beat goes on. I am, however, currently on the market for Cloud Solution Sales, Channel Relationship Management, and Business Development. If you, or someone you know, needs someone like me, look me up.

cloud_washing

Cloud Washing Defined
So what is this so called “Cloud Washing”? Marketing people seem to latch onto the cloud to get attention. If you are not savvy to the cloud hype cycle, that strategy will work on you. Because the definition of the cloud is sometimes unclear, the marketing departments tend to call everything the “Cloud”. In my humble, but accurate opinion, the cloud is Information Technology Services delivered exactly like a utility. It doesn’t matter if it is Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or Information Technology as a Service (ITaaS), it must be delivered like Telecom, or Heating and Air Conditioning. I will even go a step further, and lump Managed Services Provider (MSP) into the mix. Unfortunately, we have project-based IT and Software Development companies slapping the cloud onto existing products and services.

If I replace my email with Google Apps, Exchange Online or Office 365, I will eliminate Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Windows Server 2012, and possibly VMware and the engineers that go with them. That is what we call a “No Brainer”. I want to configure, virtualize, and scale Exchange, like I want to poke my finger in my eye or kiss that pig with lipstick.

Hype-Cycle-for-Cloud-Computing-2012
Beware!
If you find yourself paying the same rates or higher than traditional IT costs, you probably have a pig with lipstick. Your cloud fees should be one third to one half the cost of traditional IT. Cloud services should have a significant savings compared to hardware, software, and salary costs you pay now. You should NOT be buying hardware to get your cloud service projects off the ground. If you are, you are probably building the pig’s cloud service for the future. Now you will have to pay a fee for numbers of users when it comes to software licensing, but that’s to be expected. Cloud Solution Providers should have their systems baked, and ready for consumption. The order process should be smooth and fluid. If you find them writing a Statement of Work that looks like a project, start asking questions. In addition, they should be able to provide Service Level Agreements for all of their services.

Another thing to be greatly concerned about are data centers with fancy buildings and gear, who sell real estate in their data center, and have decided to add Cloud Solutions as an afterthought because they figured out they can make more margin. Make sure they offer Cloud Security, and Cloud Back Up. I have spent a lot of time evaluating, offering, and selling data center space for the last decade. Many only offer cage space, racks, services, ping, power, and pipe. They leave the rest to you. Well times have changed. Companies are burdened with certifications and compliance, which requires them extensive expertise. If you want to be a true cloud provider in 2013, you need to have Cloud Security, Cloud Back Up, and Disaster Recovery built into your cloud service. Otherwise you are not securing the cloud. PERIOD.

Here is a list of Certifications and Compliance designations your cloud provider should meet or exceed:
• FFIEC (FDIC)
• Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
• Sorbanes Oxley Act (SOX)
• National Credit Union Association (NCUA)
• Payment Card Industry (PCI)
• FISMA (Department of Defense)
• FEDRAMP (General Services Administration)
• HIPAA
• SAS 70 Compliance
• ISO 27001
• SSAE 16 Certified

Keep in mind each certification may be designed for a specific industry like banking, healthcare, and government. But these are areas to start valid discussions. In addition, passing a certification exam does not guaranty success. The cloud provider should be able to show past performance, and have case studies, and testimonials.

In short, your cloud services should be easy to acquire, easy to implement, and safe and secure. So beware of the charlatans, be smart, and come on in. The cloud is fine.

Cloud Computing: The Next Generation of Computing and Sustainable IT

I have been asked to moderate a cloud computing discussion at Green Gov 2012. The title of the session is “Cloud Computing: The Next Generation of Computing and Sustainable IT”. It is a great honor to be selected to participate as moderator. I believe this is my second go around. As National Director of Cloud Services with Core BTS, Inc. it is my job to articulate the value of cloud computing. I have been pondering the title a bit and for me to actually discuss the next generation of Cloud, we have to identify the current situation. The cloud has gone way beyond Google Mail and SalesForce (CRM), into other areas like Cloud Security, Cloud Storage, and Cloud Back Up. Furthermore, we actually must define our idea of cloud computing and sustainable IT. Not everyone is on the same page.

What is Cloud Computing?
NIST defines cloud computing as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. My own definition is slightly to the point, I consider cloud computing as Information Technology as a Utility Service. To be clear, I find Cloud Computing no different than Managed Services. It doesn’t matter if you utilize software as a service, platform as a service, or infrastructure as a service, the idea is to treat IT as a utility service to save overall costs.

What is Sustainable IT?

I define Sustainable IT as energy efficient computing from the desktop to the data center, from hardware to software, from the network to the virtual cloud. Today I will focus mainly on Cloud Computing. For all intents and purposes, Cloud Computing is Sustainable IT. How can I say that? It’s simple math. Cloud computing, done right, can save an organization 50% to 80% in TCO. The timing could not be better. With a struggling economy, corporations are looking for ways to cut costs. When you get past the internal politics, the cloud hype cycle, and take a deep dive into the total cost of running an IT shop, you will be enlightened.
A very unique thing has occurred in the past 4 years with Sustainability and IT. CEO’s and CFO’s have been getting involved with IT budgets. The server sprawl and data center energy costs have become a major factor in the cost of doing business. A big mistake C-Level execs make is the fuzzy math used to calculate TCO for the enterprise. There is a strong tendency to calculate hardware and software costs only. To get the accurate TCO, you must take into consideration the following items:

• Hardware
• Software
• Maintenance
• People
• Facilities
• Power & Cooling
• Redundancy
• Storage
• Bandwidth

When all is said and done, you may pay only a third of the cost of running your own IT shop. A classic example is Google saving the General Services Administration (GSA) $15M over a five year period. GSA had 17,000 employees using Lotus Notes. Imagine the upgrade path if they did not consider going with Gmail. That would be a logistical nightmare. They would have to have several skill sets that are, most likely, obsolete. Never the less, they managed to cut their budget in half for email across the entire agency. Because the new technology Google offers, they were able to integrate video chat, and document-sharing capabilities, as well as, mobile devices. The USDA reduced it’s per user cost for email from $150 to $100. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cut it’s per user cost for email from $300 to $100.

Just with email we start to see significant savings in the cloud. So what next?

Next Generation Cloud Computing

We are currently seeing industry specific applications going to the cloud. Cloud commoditization is creeping up and down the stack, into different industries, causing a great deal of collaboration. Forrester Research predicts all cloud markets will continue to grow, and the total cloud market will reach about $61B by the end of 2012. With this continual increase in cloud usage, we will run unto cloud sprawl. This has gotten me excited with my position here at Core BTS. We specialize in two key areas that every organization on the planet will need to meet compliance. One being security the other being disaster recovery. Cyber-attacks are a fact of life in the world of today. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and system failures are common place.

Cloud Security

What are the biggest predictions for information security? We will need more. Just think about all the areas which prompt a call to action: cloud sprawl, mobile devices, social media, malware, wireless. Information Security is no longer a niche market, it is a must have. It has to go main stream because the market demands it. Larger organizations will purchase boutique firms to shore up their share of the market. We partner with Trustwave. Trustwave allows us to offer a four compelling solutions:
1. Compliance
2. Managed Security Services
3. Spiderlabs
4. Unified Security

Just to keep up with compliance is a monumental task. Our partnership allows us to help our clients with a strong strategy to address your regulatory requirements, such as PCI, HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, FISMA, ISO, and DLP. The demand for Information Security Governance has prompted a document called 20 Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense: Consensus Audit Guideline. This guideline alone should be all the more reason to put your security in the cloud. The cost to manage information security and the following 20 Critical Security Controls is staggering. You would need specialized hardware, software, people, and infrastructure.

20 Critical Security Controls – Version 3.1
• Critical Control 1: Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Devices
• Critical Control 2: Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Software
• Critical Control 3: Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Laptops, Workstations, and Servers
• Critical Control 4: Continuous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation
• Critical Control 5: Malware Defenses
• Critical Control 6: Application Software Security
• Critical Control 7: Wireless Device Control
• Critical Control 8: Data Recovery Capability
• Critical Control 9: Security Skills Assessment and Appropriate Training to Fill Gaps
• Critical Control 10: Secure Configurations for Network Devices such as Firewalls, Routers, and Switches
• Critical Control 11: Limitation and Control of Network Ports, Protocols, and Services
• Critical Control 12: Controlled Use of Administrative Privileges
• Critical Control 13: Boundary Defense
• Critical Control 14: Maintenance, Monitoring, and Analysis of Security Audit Logs
• Critical Control 15: Controlled Access Based on the Need to Know
• Critical Control 16: Account Monitoring and Control
• Critical Control 17: Data Loss Prevention
• Critical Control 18: Incident Response Capability
• Critical Control 19: Secure Network Engineering
• Critical Control 20: Penetration Tests and Red Team Exercises

According to National Defense Magazine, we may be on the verge of a cyber-war in 2012. There have been numerous, almost daily, reports about China and other adversaries penetrating U.S. networks. Indeed, cyber security has been gaining lots of media attention. Targeted, zero day attacks will be the norm. Cybercriminals will adapt to the new cloud based protections looking for new ways to exploit networks. It’s a never ending battle. Smartphones will be a target, simply because it’s connected. Rogue Android and iPhone apps are just the beginning. Cyber Security is here to stay.

Cloud Back Up & Disaster Recovery

If you have sat around a computer in a corporate atmosphere as long as I have, chances are you have suffered panic or frustration with systems going down. Wondering whether you lost customer information, or whether that draft document you were working on was saved. It doesn’t have to be an event brought on by Mother Nature, it can be something simple like a server crashing. Disaster Recovery is changing to adapt to the overall changes in IT. IT as a commodity is fast becoming the de facto standard. So merely backing up data is not enough, we need to secure it and make it readily available. We also have to do that in the most secure effective way. In the past, DR was a very costly measure to keep systems up and running. We had to duplicate existing hardware, which is costly. We had to test that the DR plan, which was time consuming.

Our partnership with EVault helps us help our clients back up data to the DR site without violating standards for privacy and security. The HIPAA regulations regarding the security of digitally stored information are complex and difficult to follow. Outsourcing this function to the cloud helps you meet compliance, while saving on cost.

In summary, the next generation of cloud computing will be the increase in clouds for vertical markets, increase in cloud services up and down the stack, and the market demand for Cloud Security and Cloud Disaster Recovery.

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