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Crowdfunding, Technology, Solar, and 3D Printing!
As the 49th year of my existence comes to a close, I would like to reflect on the milestones of the recent past, and the hope for the near future. Let me clarify by saying that these are milestones that are important to me, and not necessarily important to society as a whole, but they could be. My thoughts are my own. I believe in practical solutions to complex problems. I believe Americans should approach economic and educational problems with the same tenacity we approach sports statistics. I also believe in having an abundance mentality. An abundance mentality to tackle complex problems involving sustainable energy, economic growth, disruptive technologies, and healthier medical alternatives. Focusing on the solutions is better than complaining about the problems. Thank you Peter Diamandis.
Solar Power In 1931 Thomas Alva Edison made this statement, and I quote, “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind, and tide. I’d put my money on sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal to run out before we tackle that.” Just a few years later, 83 to be exact, we still use oil and coal. The oil industry has been just as effective as the tobacco industry in convincing us that oil is good for us and good for the economy. There is evidence that neither of those statements are true. We can’t stop this oil habit cold turkey, but we can start looking at alternatives. Even the tobacco smokers are looking to vapor technology for a less toxic solution to regular cigarettes. For years industry has told us that solar panels are too expensive and out of reach for the average consumer, but I am happy to say that has all changed. Solar Mosaic is the first US online marketplace to offer solar investments to the public. They are a leading platform for connecting investors with high quality borrowers who are going solar. The borrower gets clean energy and saves money. Investors get paid back with interest. Now that’s what I call green investing. More alternative energy and solar based companies to watch include: Bloom Energy, Tesla Motors, and Solar Roadways. 3D Printing Ever since President Clinton signed NAFTA into law in 1992 the manufacturing industry in the USA suffered a major blow. Many of our economic problems stem from that one decision 22 years ago. President Clinton didn’t start the negotiations, but he finished them. It was actually started by President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mexican President Carlos Salinas, each responsible for this travesty against the manufacturing industry in the United States.
Unfortunately, NAFTA is not the only problem with manufacturing here in the US. We became victims of planned obsolescence, which forced W. Edward Deming to teach the Japanese manufacturing. Deming made a significant contribution to Japan’s innovation in products we use every day. When I was a kid, we use to say, “Phony like Sony”, and Japanese cars were called rice rockets, cheap, and substandard. Today, you are no longer American if you don’t drive a Japanese car. That’s a little extreme, but we tend to consider Toyota, Honda, and Lexus quality and durable. The Koreans have followed the Japanese and have given us Hyundai and Kia. I am partial to the Kia Optima Hybrid, the poor man’s Tesla Motors. Only recently we have become competitive with Japan and Korea in terms of sales.
Today, everything is made in China. China is poised to swamp our boat if we do not return to our roots in manufacturing. One tool we should take advantage of is 3D Printing. It is not a panacea, but it is a step in the right direction. I just saw a news report where NASA is printing tools in space like crazy. They can have a database of 3D CAD images of every part and tool they will need on their journey. If anything breaks, they can make a new part on the fly. What about veterans returning home from the war with missing limbs? Companies like Organovo will be able to build custom body parts from a simple blood draw. Now that’s rapid manufacturing, and the time is now. I hope we take significant advantage of this technology to start a renaissance in manufacturing here in the USA. I would like to see job training in advanced manufacturing techniques as part of workforce training. Maker groups are popping up everywhere, but I think we need to make a concerted effort officially. 3D Printing will change everything. Companies to keep an eye on besides Organovo, are as follows: Stratasys, Intel, 3D Systems, and Autodesk. Medical Marijuana Laws Although I have not had the pleasure of doing a bong hit since college, I have become intrigued by marijuana for a whole host of different things in the past year. CBDs to be exact. I knew about THC, which is the component of weed that gets you high (THC is responsible for the psychoactive part of cannabis), but I didn’t know about the other chemicals that cured or treated diseases which are not psychoactive. I think it is illegal in the USA to say something natural cures disease without the FDA’s stamp of approval on it. CBDs have not been fully tested, but may be a solution to a host of medical issues. It has been known to have anti-spasmodic, anti-epileptic, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic properties. To put this in prospective, Diabetes will be a $500 Billion problem in the US by 2020, and there may be a chemical in weed to fix that. To me that is very exciting, especially since both of my parents suffer from Diabetes, which makes me more likely to inherit that disease.
There are other things I wish to happen to promote the legalization of medical marijuana. I think it should not be considered a Class 1 drug because there is no record of it killing anyone. There is no record of long-term effects. It has a better record than alcohol. Besides, how many people are in long prison sentences for this mild sedative of a drug? Prohibition of marijuana has caused it to mutate from 3% THC in the 70’s, up to 30% THC today. For profits sake, growers were forced to grow the strongest weed in extreme conditions. THC is not totally bad for you neither because it works synergistically with CBD to counteract those types of effects. My hope is that they breed more variety composed of the healthy chemicals in optimal conditions. My renewed interest in medical marijuana stems from my background as a medical lab technician. With 23 states and DC with medical marijuana laws on the books, there is a chance this will become a reality.
When Dr. Sanjay Gupta can change his view on marijuana, so can I. Meet The 8 Hot Publicly Traded Marijuana Companies Information Security On any given Sunday you will read about a security breach from some company, government, hospital, or retailer who decided to do business as usual without implementing the proper security protocols. Poor Sony has been hitting the headlines with rapid fire over the last week or so. On one hand, I kind of like to know that Idris Elba is being considered as the new 007, and that racism is alive and well in Hollywood and the UK. I am not promoting Sony, but they keep coming up in the conversation. My favorite store Target (pronounced Tar-Jay) has had its fair share of hacks. I stopped using Bank of America because every year I was getting a new debit card because somebody was buying a subway pass in NYC, while I lived in Washington DC area. The Internet moves at warp speed, so before you decide to go mobile, or perform online transactions, talk to your local information security expert. The Internet is here to stay, mobile is here to stay, and the cloud is here to stay. Adapt and overcome.
Some of the information security providers are Trustwave, Qualys, Cisco, Trend Micro, Symantec, IBM, HP, Kaspersky Lab, and Dell, to name a few. Information Security is in great demand, yet I do not see significant moves in education addressing this great demand. This is something we need to tackle not only here in the US, but on a worldwide scale. The pay is pretty good, too. Cloud Computing Cloud Computing is fast becoming another utility like service for the masses. Whether it is B2B or B2C, it is fast becoming the best way to do business. There are so many players in the space vying for position. I am curious how it will all turn out. I see more consolidation, more players, and a platform war on the horizon. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the clear winner, but I believe Rackspace is a major threat if they stay true to their core philosophy. VMware is also a major threat, simply because they were the first to develop a cloud infrastructure, but software costs have spawned competition. Their spin-off Pivotal seems very interesting. I like the moves CenturyLink and IBM Softlayer have made. Not too sure how big blue is going to effectively merge IBM, SoftLayer, and MaaS360, but I am curious.
We can’t forget Google and Microsoft. Google just unveiled a free trial of their platform, and Microsoft is gaining ground with Office 365, plus they have a huge reseller base that can fuel Azure. One surprise to me is Larry Ellison stepping down from Oracle and embracing cloud computing when initially he was totally against it. I still think platform providers should augment their current offerings with endpoint solutions like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Mobile Device Management (MDM). Companies to watch in the VDI space are VMware, Citrix, Nuvestack, and VDI*Works. Companies wo watch in the MDM space are Airwatch, MobileIron, and Maas360. Give the customer what they need and want. One stop shopping. Internet of Things The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices (wireless modules) within the existing Internet infrastructure. I enjoyed movies like “I, Robot” and the “Minority Report”. I do believe those types of technologies are in the very near future. Google and Facebook are already collecting and warehousing data about us as individuals. First step place wireless modules on things, then installing microchips on humans. I’m totally against chipping people, but all the signs are there. We may be just one false flag attack away from being chipped. Just kidding, but not really. On a serious note, if we can make the simple cooler The Coolest, we can make everyday products do amazing things. I don’t think we will be able predict the future like in Minority Report, but we definitely will excel in robotics, automation, and personalized data analytics. Couple that with the cloud and the possibilities are limitless. Not to be confused with the movie “Limitless”, which is another discussion entirely.
I think Will.I.Am is even creating wearable technology. I see clothing design becoming more functional than just covering us up and protecting us from the elements. I see adding health management and productivity to the mix. If you have seen the movie “After Earth”, you know what I am talking about. Take a look at Ministry of Supply. Baby steps.
“If you look at the field of robotics today you can say robots have been in the deepest oceans, they’ve been to Mars, you know? They’ve been all these places, but they’re just now starting to come to your living room. Your living room is the final frontier for robots.” – Cynthia Breazeal, CEO, Founder, at Jibo The Internet of Things (IoT) converges the cloud with embedded computing devices on things, all in an attempt to make our lives easier and more productive. Cisco Systems partnering with Sierra Wireless is a just the beginning of the IoT movement. I am curious to see who else joins the party. Crowdfunding There are a whole host of new and innovative tech products coming to life via crowdfunding. The democratization of finance is probably the most disruptive industry we have going for us right now. According to the Worldbank it is projected to grow to $93 billion by 2025. Crowdfunding circumvents the process of concept, design, and customer validation within a 60 to 90 day period all online. It gives the entrepreneur the ability to pivot and change on the fly. Some analysts are partial to equity based crowdfunding only, and I think this is a mistake. I think all aspects of crowdfunding are crucial to add a spark to the economy. Funding a startup has become much easier. Developing your prototype or proof of concept has become easier. You no longer need to have an inside connection to the local venture capitalists or angel investors because your campaign is open to the world.
Donation based crowdfunding like GoFundMe and Crowdrise, circumvents traditional fundraising and annual gift programs. The reduction in overhead is tremendous. It is an agile way to fund your projects. Rewards based crowdfunding like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are viable and crucial because it ignites startups from the start by proving customer validation via purchases and interest. Lender based Crowdfunding like LendingClub are totally disruptive to the banking industry with added competition and easy access to funds. Equity Based crowdfunding like InvestPeer and OurCrowd allows anyone to get a piece of the action without being a millionaire (accredited investor). The word crowd means everybody can be involved, not just a select few. At least that is what Title III offers. Unfortunately, the approval of Title III has been delayed. If the average citizen knew that the SEC was dragging their feet on legislation that passed in 2012, there would be protests in the streets. The JOBS ACT was signed in 2012 with bipartisan support, but the SEC has succumbed to the forces that be to stifle this new industry.
The one thing I know about disruption is that it doesn’t always come easy, there may be serious resistance. I’m sure Blockbuster would have started a war with Netflix and Redbox if it knew it was a threat ahead of time. You see this happening in the ride-sharing industry with Uber and Lyft in some states. DISRUPTION! The struggle is real. There is over 600 crowdfunding sites in existence. They couldn’t stop it if they wanted to. Intrastate crowdfunding is already happening in 13 states, and that is just the beginning.
In conclusion If you are involved with economic development in any capacity as a city, a politician, a business or a citizen you should consider these 7 little things for boosting your economy. Making investments in solar, information technology, 3D Printing, robotics, biomed research, and crowdfunding can boost your local economy. Develop workforce training programs around software development and advanced manufacturing technologies. Obviously, you can’t participate in medical marijuana if your state doesn’t allow it, but there are so many biomed research opportunities to be had. So be curious, ponder, wonder, and look to make the mundane more interesting and more functional. I look forward to what the future holds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Energy Tech Startups
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?”
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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/
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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)
• 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.