Top 10 Ways the City of Austin Failed Themselves with Prop 1! #Uber #Lyft

Campaign signs concerning a municipal vote over fingerprint requirements for ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft are seen along a roadway in Austin, Texas, May 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz

1. Taxi Service – Taxi service is a dying industry which is too expensive, slow, and lacks efficiency. Let it die like Blockbuster, Blackberry Phones, MySpace, or Music CDs and cassette tapes. If the city of Austin had their way, we’d still be using floppy disks.
2. Drunk Drivers – Ride sharing dropped the rate of drunk drivers by up to 23%. This is a public safety issue that should be celebrated.
3. Public Transportation – Austin’s current public transportation is inadequate to support the growing population in Austin. 100 people move here everyday. We only have Interstate 35 north and south, and no other way around it.
4. Jail Time – Incarcerations and possible death due to drunk drivers will increase by up to 23%, which will yield hefty fines of up to $10K – $15k, plus jail time. This may be what the mayor and the chief of police had in mind. Follow the money.
5. Tech Companies – Tech companies relocating to Austin depend on ride sharing. Just ask anyone from Dell, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Oracle, IBM and a plethora of startups.
6. Service Workers – Service Workers (hotels, restaurants, resorts) depend on ride sharing services to get to and from work. They can’t afford a taxi. How many jobs will be lost because of lack of dependable transportation? Uber alone employs 15,000+ people that live and work within the city limits.
7. Ride Sharing Apps – Ride Sharing Apps are the major disruption to taxi service. Why? You get detailed information about the rider, destination, ETA, and profile of driver. You can see the route the driver traveled, the credit card information is on file, total paperless, hassle free system. Taxi service gets a dispatcher, which in my experience is always the personification of customer service (sarcasm). The dispatcher has to negotiate with a driver in the nearby vicinity, but with ride sharing apps, it is automatic based on GPS coordinates.
8. Tourism and Conventions – Tourism and Conventions considering Austin may look at transportation as an issue as a reason to not have an event in Austin. Tourists on vacation may have reservations about it.
9. Background Checks & Fingerprinting – Background checks of Uber/Lyft drivers is mandatory, but nobody seems to be concerned about background checks of taxi drivers. I mean disrespect to cab drivers, but sometimes I wonder about who these people are. At least with the ride sharing app, I have a profile of my driver, and a rating system.
10. Tech Savvy Credentials – Austin loses it’s credibility as a tech savvy city. Still a horse and buggy town.

The problem with disruptive technologies is that the established businesses are too busy obstructing instead of innovating. And to the politicians that see short term gains from DWI fines and imprisonment, shame on you. You are missing the bigger picture.

 

The Very Best of Prince on Amazon

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Cyber Attacks in the age of the Panama Papers

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Cyber Attacks in the age of the Panama Papers 

Not since WikiLeaks, has there been such a large information breach of this magnitude.  According to ICIJ, over 140 politicians and public officials have been revealed as having offshore holdings, more than 214,000 organizations have been identified, along with many billions’ worth of transactions.  The Law Firm Mossack Fonseca has claimed they are victims of a hack from servers abroad. The firm lost 2.6TB of data, and didn’t even notice.  The mainstream media has focused on high profile politicians, companies, and criminals, but hardly anyone is talking about the actual law that was broken: the cyber attack.  Now we can discuss the ethics of hiding tax dollars offshore, or the ethics of criminals hiding their ill-gotten gains, or how shadow government agencies and actors finance wars, but the topic is information security.  Information security is a necessary expense.  Just ask the politicians stepping down or being asked to resign.

So what does my company need to worry about concerning information security?  What do I as an individual, need to do for my personal information security?  You need to go beyond the traditional paradigm of information security:

  • Security and Vulnerability Management
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Endpoint Security
  • Network Security
  • Web Security
  • Messaging

The digital world is changing fast and you must adapt to the rapid change.  With the advent of cloud computing and mobile devices, we have a whole new set of challenges to address.

Top Ten Cyber Attacks for 2016 

 

  1. Cloud Computing 

Cloud Computing has been described as the IT nightmare and the hackers dream.  With cloud computing you are basically slamming computer environments together with different entities and security protocols. That can give the hacker flexibility once they access the cloud. In addition, Cloud Computing is taking over the file storage space.  Apple, Google, and Amazon all have their own flavor of online file storage.  Other companies like Box, DropBox, and Carbonite contain company and personal information.  The problem is privacy.   Who has access to this data? Who else can get access to tax, photos, bank and credit card files in the cloud?

Of course, cloud computing experts say cloud computing is NOT the hackers dream, and that is just a myth. If firms do not properly plan to secure the cloud computing environment, myths have a way of becoming true.    If properly planned, the cloud environment may be more secure than ever before.  So the next time a celebrity nude photo appears, remember where that data is stored.

 

2. Critical Infrastructure 

The U.S. government has seen a rise in cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, mainly industrial control systems for utilities like: water,  electricity, oil and gas.  The very first critical infrastructure attack recently happened in the Ukraine.  Information security professionals are investigating the situation because of the worldwide ramifications.  The Ukraine Utility Cyberattack left roughly 700,000 people without power for several hours.  Remember that 2007 Bruce Willis movie ‘Live Free or Die hard’? You get the picture.

3. Mobile Devices 

Mobile devices are a new way for hackers to access the network and the cloud.  Many mobile apps are basically websites running an application hosted somewhere.  In addition, the data on the mobile phone itself can be hacked.  There is a product called femtocell which is basically a mini cell tower.  Hackers have figured out they can convert this device into a mini cell tower.  Femtocell sell for roughly $300, but Verizon said it has since fixed the problem with patches to all their products.  But this is just the tip of the ice berg.  This can happen to all wireless carriers.  It is estimated that the same hackers that use the ATM scanners will start using mini cell towers. Imagine one of these guys sitting next to a CEO capturing all incoming and outgoing transmissions from their cell phone while sitting in the airport.  I could happen.
 

4. Automobile Hacking 

This may seem like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is really a big problem.  There are 9 hackable cars on the market according to Cyber Security Experts, Charlie Miller of Twitter, and Chris Valasek of IOActive.  The first car hacks started with the same diagnostic ports mechanics use to analyze car maintenance and performance, but now that cars have their own Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth systems, all bets are off.  Hackers can do everything from listening in on phone calls, tampering with steering controls, cruise control, braking systems, and engine controls.

9 Hackable Cars:

  1. 2014 Jeep Cherokee
  1. 2015 Cadillac Escalade
  1. 2014 Infiniti Q50
  1. 2014 Toyota Prius
  1. 2010 Toyota Prius
  1. 2014 Ford Fusion
  1. 2014 BMW X3
  1. 2014 Chrysler 300
  1. 2014 Range Rover Evoque

What do these cars all have in common? They all have some sort of navigation system, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.  Some also have proprietary cellular service.  Either way, hackers can do what they do best.

5. EMV Chip Credit Cards 

You know those new credit cards with the new security chips on them?  All the banks are starting to implement such cards. I got mine a couple years ago.  Apparently the chip carries your personal banking history and bank account information.  Despite all the security hype around chipped cards, they have been hacked before and a newer threat is on the rise.  Before they used what was called the “Man in the Middle Hack”, which the hacker intervened in the communication between the card chip and bank.  The new cards have worked out that one flaw, but some hackers in Europe figured out an ingenious way to work around that.  Basically, they installed their own chip to act as the “man in the middle”.  Police in Belgium and France remained baffled to the card theft.  The contracted scientists in France to study the chips, and they had to use an X-ray machines and microscopes to find the hacker’s chip.

Now banks think they have fixed this problem, but I’m sure there is a hacker out there looking for another way around the new security protocols.

6. Phishing Attacks 

Phishing attacks are the ongoing hack attacks that proliferate our society, from phone calls, email spoofing, online requests, and social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  Any attempt to gain access to personal information like usernames, passwords and credit card details is phishing. Fake contacts from popular social web sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure unsuspecting victims.  Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware.  Hackers could create a clone of a website and tell you to enter personal information, which is then emailed to them.  This is quite common.  I personally had someone attempt to award me $80,000 dollars from Facebook for being a loyal participant.  They started asking personal questions, but I started answering questions with a question until they deleted their fake profile. Of course, I reported to Facebook.

7. Malware 

Malware is an umbrella term used to describe any malicious software code.  It comes in many flavors: including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malicious programs.  Malware an take the form of executables, scripts, active content, and other software. Destructive malware will utilize popular communication tools to spread, including worms sent through email and instant messages, Trojan horses dropped from web sites, and virus-infected files downloaded from peer-to-peer connections.  The next time you download that free movie, keep that in mind.

8. CryptoWall 

The CryptoWall Ransomware is a ransomware Trojan that carries the same strategy as a number of other encryption ransomware infections such as Cryptorbit Ransomware or CryptoLocker Ransomware.  It’s such a pain, that it deserves it’s own category.  The designers of CryptoWall have stolen at least $325 million with this malicious ransomware.  CryptoWall 4.0 is supposed to be even worse still.  Imagine your important data saved in a database gets locked down, and the only way to get it back is to pay a ransom for the encryption key.  That is what ransomware does.  It encrypts your data and holds it hostage.  Right now the only way to protect your company’s valuable data is to do daily backups.  That is easier said than done.

9. Medical Devices 

Ransomware in medical devices is a huge cyber security risk in 2016.  From insulin pumps to pace makers, a hacker can put your life under their fingertips.  According to the FBI, between April 2014 and June 2015, hackers extorted $18 million from American victims via extortion via personal computers. Unfortunately, individuals cannot put security protocols on medical devices. That is up to the manufacturer.

10. State-Sponsored Hacking 

State-sponsored cyber attacks is a real thing.  There have been so many rumors about this type of cyber warfare, including: China hacking the US, North Korea hacking Sony, the US hacking Iran and on and on. Well recently, someone shut down Ukraine’s electricity from Russia.  I’m sure the execs at Sony were not pleased to have private emails posted on the Internet, but it happened.  Ironically, the Guardians of Peace (GOP) demanded that Sony pull it’s film The Interview, a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and threatened terrorist attacks at cinemas screening the film. Sony decided to pull nationwide release of the film, and eventually the movie was sent straight to video.

About Terell Jones

Our guest contributor, Terell Jones is the Managing Director, Americas for S2 Management Solutions an managed services and managed security firm in Austin, TX.  He runs a blog called the @thegreenITguy.

theGreenITguy’s Top Picks for SXSW Interactive 2016

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In 23 years SXSW Interactive has had many great keynote speakers, but no US President was ever up for the task until now.  President Barack Obama came through Austin, Texas with the greatest of ease. He stopped off at Torchy’s Tacos for a Republican, Independent, and Democrat Taco, then speaking at the Dell Hall at the Long Center to discuss 21st century civic engagement and community service.  As always, he was up beat, measured in his responses, and sometimes comical, but always serious.  

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The President, moderated by the Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, called on the SXSW community, and the tech industry, to solve the nation’s biggest problems by working in conjunction with the US government. “It’s not enough to focus on the cool, next big thing,” Obama said, “It’s harnessing the cool, next big thing to help people in this country.”

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SXSW Interactive 2016 was very interesting on many levels.  For one, it is very hard to assess the entirety and enormity of such an event without committing some serious time participating.  As press, you have to be there for at least a week to survive the food, fun, traffic, crowds, music and entertainment, and tons of events onsite and offsite.  Then wind down with a hot bath with Epsom salt and maybe a massage.  I have to admit, I had to take myself out of commission for one day, 48 hours into the fray due to exhaustion.

Even though this is my 3rd year in a row attending SXSW, I have never lasted the entire event, nor do I want to.  I pick my battles carefully.   That being said, I spent my time in the exhibits,  start up pitches, and press events.  I must say, the good things come by accident.  After a long afternoon in the press room on day one, I was spent from long walks.  In the Hilton Hotel, I visited a happy hour on the 4th floor.  I was drinking a beer before hitting the road, and this young lady put a beer cuzy under my beer with the Roadie logo on it.  Video

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Marc GorlinMarc Gorlin, Founder & CEO Roadie, ATL

 

That young lady was Valerie Metzker, Head of Field Marketing at Roadie was gracious enough to explain the innovative Roadie mobile app, and I was quite impressed.  In a nutshell, I call them the Uber for stuff.  They like to say it is “On the way delivery network“. But then the plot thickened when she told me that they partnered with Ludacris AKA Chris Bridges, rap mogul, actor, and entrepreneur.  Marc Gorlin, Founder and CEO of Roadie entered into a partnership with Ludacris to promote the high tech scene in Atlanta. Although, Roadie is a homegrown Atlanta business, it is a nationwide endeavor.  Download the Roadie App

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Hannah OiknineHannah Oiknine, CEO and Founder, Babbler, NYC

Perusing the booths I ran into this exhibitor called Babbler.  In 2014, Hannah Oiknine, a former Microsoft marketing manager, stumbled upon an innovative idea while helping her sister Sarah Azan, a PR professional.  Babbler is a social media network for journalists and public relation firms. Currently, press releases have been lost in emails and fax machines.  The number is too great to give adequate time to, so it ends up as spam.  Babbler connects the story makers with storytellers avoiding email.  Hannah started this business with her sister Sarah Azan.  With a small investment from friends and family for $50,000 they built a proof of concept, and went from 7 customers to 50 customers , then 50 customers to 250 customers.  The platform has a network of over 5000 active reporters and growing.

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Here at SXSW, Babbler has closed $2M by two French investment firms, obtained a French interview, pitched to the NY Times, and is looking for new customers in the US market from the NYC headquarters. This young Moroccan Jewish 26 year old female and her sister are doing big things in the public relations industry.  http://babbler.us/

 

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Jovan HackleyJovan Hackley, Director of Marketing, Student Loan Genius, ATX

My first sit down interview at SXSW was with Jovan Hackley of Student Loan Genius.  Student Loan Genius just received a $3M seeding fund led by Prudential and John Hancock.  It is rare for a brick and mortar institutions to jump on such innovative technology, but once you consider they are offering a 401K for student loans, then maybe not so far fetched.  Student Loan Genius is working out of the Austin’s very own Capital Factory. Co-Founded in 2013 by CEO Tony Aguilar, this Student Loan Genius helps employees get to the next stage of life, through an employer benefit with real value.  Right now you can’t even write off student loans in bankruptcy.  This helps employees shorten the lifecycle of one of the most disastrous loans to your credit rating available.  

studentloangenius statement

Jovan says the benefit helps employers and employees. It helps employers recruit and retain, while helping employees save on average thousands of dollars per year.  http://studentloangenius.com/

simplicity health systems

Chad ZerangueChad Zerangue, President, Simplicity Health Systems, Dallas

Chad Zerangue is a maverick when it comes to simplifying bureaucracies.  His company founded in 2009, specialized in Healthcare IT and has formulated his own data routing service.  The mission of the company was to provide simple ways for providers and health organizations to migrate their legacy paper based medical charts information into a usable format within an electronic medical records system, without having to type all that discreet demographic, financial and clinical data into the system.

simplicityhealthsystem statement

In 2012 they decided to productize these services, and now using cloud-based technologies such as Microsoft Azure and mobile messaging technologies such as REST, they have created a highly scalable, secure, HIPAA compliant communication network to deliver their core products, docflock, CIPHR and SystemSync. In layman’s terms, they have simplified the data extraction of medical health record information into a more potable and secure format.  This drastically cuts costs, and makes room for data analytics of health care data, which has been trapped in silos. http://www.simplicityhealthsystems.com/

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Laura BorlandLaura Borland, President & Co-Founder, Vyllage, Miami

For two years Laura Borland and her partner, Sean Hale had been thinking of this business, and decided to start it one year ago. Vyllage is a mobile app for holding packages for your neighbors.  Vyllage is a network of homeowners in your neighborhood that will accept packages for you when you are not home from FeDex, UPS, or USPS.  You no longer have to worry about stolen packages from your doorstep.  The goal is to have secure package delivery in every neighborhood.  


SXSW has been a very good opportunity for the Vyllage team.  Before they participated in the pitch session, they had been approached by investors from Uber, Overstock, and Lyft.  Vyllage Home Affiliates stand to make $3 a package for accepting packages for their neighbors.  This only works in single family homes, not available for apartments, but the opportunity serves two purposes.  One, it fosters community and protects your packages from possible theft.  This seems to be a growing problem around the holidays. Laura tells me that sometimes thieves follow delivery trucks in order to steal.  Vyllage has found a niche, and are filling it quite well.  http://vyllage.net/

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Edward PerelloEdward Perello, Chief Business Officer & Founder, Desktop Genetics, UK

I try hard not to geek out when I see something cool, but my background as a medical lab technician, and information technology professional helps me readily recognize something very cool.  We only started mapping the human genome back in 2003, now we can study it and create experiments right from our laptops with Desktop Genetics.  Desktop Genetics walks you through every aspect of your genome editing experiment, guiding you from design to data, and allowing you to fully realize the power of CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

desktop genetics statement

This product can be purchased as an enterprise software package or as a cloud based service. They also offer genomic services that you can outsource. It was created for laboratories and universities worldwide.  The possibilities are unlimited, from developing new drug therapies, or conducting experiments without setting one foot in a lab.  https://www.deskgen.com/landing/

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Adekunle AyodeleAdekunle Ayodele, Founder & CEO, Databox Technologies, ATL

 

I just happen to catch Adekunle at a happy hour mixer for startups at SXSW.  He has created his own social media mobile app called Mixle.  Mixle connects users nearby in real time based on their current thoughts. It provides an easy-to-use interface that enables users to easily navigate the app, find a match, and instantly meet up offline. It also features an innovative “Get Me Out Of Here” button that allows users to share location details with designated contacts in case of an uncomfortable situation.

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I’ve noticed a technology trend coming out of Atlanta, and that is exciting.  Download Mixle

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Nick ConleyNick Conley, CEO, EpiBiome, San Francisco

EpiBiome is a precision microbiome engineering company with the mission to developing efficient and sustainable FDA-approved therapies to combat infectious disease in humans and agriculture without the use of antibiotics.  Why is this so important?  We have created more harm than good with antibiotics. We have indirectly created superbugs resistant to antibiotics.  There a bacteria in nature that are helpful to disease.  The history of antibiotics and antiseptics is broad spectrum antibiotics.  Traditionally, the medical industry and food services have killed off useful bacteria with broad spectrum antibiotics. EpiBiome uses a narrow spectrum bacteria for delivering safer outcomes for humans and agriculture.  

 

The company is also developing a method for highly accurate and semi-quantitative bacterial profiling, which it is in the process of automating in order to launch a turnkey sequencing and bioinformatics service.  Last month prior to SXSW, EpiBiome completed $6M Series A Financing Round.  I expect big things from this 11 person team out of silicon valley.  http://epibiome.com/

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cheryl pottsCheryl Potts, Founder & CEO, Cleerkut Royalty, DC

The music business has been rife with fraud from the beginning of time when it comes to royalties.  This copyright administrator/software engineer seeks to put an end to that.  Cheryl Potts of Stafford, VA, just 40 minutes south of Washington DC has put together a robust platform that does just that.  It is a very highly innovative technology platform, which makes sure everyone gets their cut.  No more shady deals, and contracts that artists can understand.  If you are in any part of the music industry you need this. I saw the demo on the software platform and you simply input the data, and it spits out a music contract.  

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That includes: performing songwriter, producer, songwriter, and record labels.  Cheryl call it the ‘Do It Yourself’ music licensing and royalty accounting application for Songwriters and Independent Record Labels.  http://cleerkutroyalty.com/

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Kobina AnsahKobina Ansah, Co-Founder, ModernLend, NYC

ModernLend is the credit card for international citizens living in the U.S.  By understanding your education, employment and financial background, they can determine your creditworthiness without requiring SSN or FICO credit score.  I caught up with Kobina at a FinTech startup pitch session on day one of SXSW.  They were founded at Wharton Business School, and bring 10+ years experience from Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, and are Seed Stage funded. They are also a portfolio company in Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator and won BBVA Bank’s Global FinTech Competition (out of 650 startups). Learn more at www.ModernLend.com.

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What Digital Divide? Anyone Can Learn To Code For Free!

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If I had a child in this day and age, I would probably make them learn software code like they learn reading and writing.  Let’s face it, most primary schools are not equipped to keep us up to date with modern technologies, and definitely not software code. The best jobs with or without a college education is in the Information Technology industry. Not all of us can be like Stephen Curry or Cam Newton, but we can learn to code. From the female perspective, not all women can be like Oprah Winfrey or Beyoncé, but they can learn to code.  In this day and age, let’s face it, geeks are sexy.  People tend to be a little more sexy when they have money in their pocket, and in the bank.

So who am I targeting in this post?  I’m targeting that young person looking for the great economic equalizer, or that adult looking for a career change that promotes a better lifestyle, or that driven person that needs to learn code to become the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk.  Coding is not just for geeks these days. It is a valuable skill set for just about anyone willing to learn it.  More and more marketing teams require it.

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According to David Arnoux of Growth Tribe Academy, Growth Hacking is the most requested skill in marketing for new startups on AngelList. Right now there is 18,000 good growth hackers with a demand of 120,000.  According to data compiled by job search site Indeed.com, growth hackers have an average salary of $82,000. Mr. Arnoux says that salaries for a certified growth hacker have an average salary of $114,000.

To learn Growth Hacking, you may need to know basic programming skills.  But Growth Hacking is not the only tech job happening these days.  There are a myriad of tech jobs waiting to be filled with skilled workers from startups to Fortune 500 companies.  The only thing standing between you and them is a little bit of software code, creativity, and grit.  Grit in the sense that you must maintain a strong belief that you can learn anything.  The way I rationalize my grit for learning is that I imagine if one man can do it, then I can do it.  It may take me longer, but if I commit to repetition, nobody will outwork me. Always be the hardest worker in the room.

Top Ten Places to Learn Code for FREE! 

 khan academy

(1) Khan Academy – I fell in love with Khan Academy at a technology event in San Francisco in 2014. One of the guest speakers was Salman Khan. He created this non-profit venture by helping his young cousins with physics on YouTube. The story is inspiring and I recommend you listen to his Ted Talk concerning the program.  Not only can you use this platform to learn to code for free, you can have your kids learn complex math and science to prepare them for college. Adults who are too embarrassed to go back to school, can pick up where they left off, and start anew in the privacy of their own home. The platform is very powerful.

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(2) Codeacademy – With over 25 million learners all over the world Codeacademy is by far the most famous platform to learn how to code for free.  It doesn’t matter if you are a teenager, or age 50 learning a new career, Codeacademy can make it happen.  It already has, and I highly suggest you look at the Codeacademy stories.  If you have an idea in your head, you may be able to bring it to life right here.  Learn how Tommy went from knowing nothing about code to building one of Time’s ’50 Best Websites’ after learning with Codeacademy.

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(3) Code School – At Code School, you learn by doing.  This platform is equipped with interactive programming courses and coding challenges.  Code School was recently purchased by online training company PluralSight last year.  PluralSight offers a variety of programming courses, complete with professional video.  Code School is a little more intense that Codeacademy, and offers you up to 10 free courses, then you can graduate to a subscription of $29/month.

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(4) Udacity –  This platform did something special with the NanoDegree Program certification, which ties the course work to a specific job title.  For instance, if you want to become a iOS Developer, you could take the coursework specific to that job title and NanoDegree.  The most popular NanoDegree programs are Data Analyst, iOS Developer, Tech Entrepreneur, Machine Learning Engineer, Beginning Ruby, Android Developer, and Senior Web Developer.  According to PayScale, Ruby on Rails Developers average salary nationwide is $76, 736.

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(5) Coursera – If you wanted actual programming courses from reputable colleges, this is the place. Coursera offers online courses that go well beyond just software programming.  For instance you can learn ‘Getting Started with Python’ from the University of Michigan, ‘Programming and the Web for Beginners’ from Duke University, and ‘Programming Mobile Applications for Android Handheld Systems: Part 1 at University of Maryland at College Park. You are getting top notch education from college professors or industry professionals. One good thing I like about Coursera is their partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The joint partnership provides one free Coursera Course Certificate to every US Veteran to help improve employability skills in high-demand fields such as data science and entrepreneurship. Visit the Veteran Employment Center to learn how to redeem your free credential voucher.

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(6) Dash by General Assembly – If you just want to learn how to build websites for free, this is the place to start. Dash teaches HTML, CSS, and Javascript through fun projects you can do in your browser.  With step-by-step guidance, you complete projects, and unlock new skills.  I will tell you the first time a built a website, I was taught a WordPress Theme online at YouTube, but it couldn’t help me with the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which would have made my web developments quicker and more customizable.

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(7) Treehouse – If you have an idea in your head for a project, a purpose for developing code, this is the best place to start.  Treehouse is more project based vs. language based. So if you want to build a website or a software program, this platform may be more beneficial. Treehouse offers a Basic Plan for a 7 day trial, then bumps you up to $25/month. For that you get access to 1000+ videos, practice live code with their Practice Code Engine, and get help from the members-only forum.  For their Pro Plan, you get a 7 day trial that offers everything in the basic plan plus watching talks from industry leaders, enjoy bonus content, and download videos for offline learning for $49/month.

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(8) Code Avengers –  Learn to  build websites, apps, and games in a fun and effective way. If you like computer games, they like to treat you to a game after each module.  Code Avengers is designed to help you develop a love of programming.  Right now you can only learn web development, but that is a great start.  There’s nothing to lose from trying their free introductory code course, but everything to gain.

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(9) Learn Python The Hard Way – The title is misleading because it is actually an easy course taught by Zed Shaw.  It is basically an HTML version of his book on the same subject.  The average salary for a Python Senior Software Engineer is $115, 911, according to PayScale.

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(10) SQLZOO – Structured Query Language (SQL) can be very boring, but the pay is good.  It is simply a database where you store and retrieve data. Every company has a warehouse of products or services, so databases are a necessary evil.  Think of it as a utility service. The average salary for a senior software engineer according to Payscale is $101,413.

So what does it cost you to be competitive in the tech industry? NOTHING, but work.  If you don’t learn how to code, someone in Pakistan, India, or northern Europe will gladly take that tech job from you. We are in a global economy.  There is documented evidence of a vast shortage of software programmers in the US.  Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers wrote a report back in 2013 revealing the shortage of highly skilled STEM employees. Not much has changed since then, so there is a large opportunity for some dedicated individuals to take advantage of the situation.

One important thing to keep in mind, while there is a shortage of highly skilled coders, connectivity has changed, allowing foreigners to build software apps overseas and ship back to the USA. My previous companies software was built in Pakistan.  It is time to start thinking outside the bubble of the United States.  I laugh when politicians tell us that Latinos crossing the border to take our jobs is an issue.  It doesn’t matter if you are Black, White, Latino, Asian, Caucasian, or Native American, male or female, young or old: coding is the 21st century manufacturing job.  And the pay is good.  So in closing if you commit to the belief that you can learn anything, commit to mastering basic coding skills, then you can do anything imaginable.

Education is an equal opportunity.  So go get your code on.

Just when you thought the party was over, VDI is still jamming!

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I’ve talked about it before, and I’m talking about it again. Cloud providers have dabbled in the past with cloud desktops with little success, but the market demands have intervened.  VDI is alive and kicking.  Hosted desktops, VDI, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure – it doesn’t matter what you call it, the people want it. I say give the people what they want.  Why all the drama surrounding VDI?  It had a false start.  A simple SAN architecture with spinning disks was not appropriate for VDI.  You needed modified hardware to deliver VDI. You needed solid state storage.  In the past, VDI worked wonderfully in the lab, and then crashed in production.  Why? Unique user profiles perform unique compute functions unlike servers.  Server performance is predictable, unique user profiles are not.  Secondly, you can cause a denial of service (DDoS) attack on the SAN if your architecture is not modified to handle unique user profiles.

VMware and Citrix have been dominating the VDI market, but there are new players like VDIworks which offer its own orchestration layer at half the cost, and twice as easy to implement and manage. Headquartered in Austin, Texas and founded in 2007, VDIworks is a leading provider of Virtual Desktop enablement and management solutions.  How come you never heard of it until now?  VDIworks has been an OEM provider up until 2013.  The software has successful past performance in the federal government, and several commercial vertical markets.

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At a recent customer visit, the support engineering manager listed some things down which he considered desirable features and benefits of VDIworks:

  1. Half the cost of VMware and Citrix
  2. Twice as easy to install and manage
  3. No need for costly certifications
  4. VDP is Hypervisor Agnostic
  5. VDI Pro is browser based (HTML5)
  6. Edge device management
  7. Self-Healing
  8. Easy Reconfig
  9. Custom skins, logos, and rebranding
  10. Spare desktop pools
  11. Connection history
  12. Capable of integrating via SNMP into Ticketing Systems
  13. Customization and Personalization

With cyber security becoming a very important matter in recent history, it is no longer economically viable for organizations to let end user data proliferate without control.  HIPAA violations prove to be costly, and credit card data is no less a hot target, but for corporations with IP, corporate data must be secured at all times.  To remedy these security risks companies are opting to centralize end-user data and applications to gain control.  In addition, they are able to deliver enhanced backup and high performance computing.  The only barrier to entry is network performance.

VDI has failed in the past because of a myriad of problems, but when implemented correctly it can yield many advantages over physical PCs:

  • BYOD
  • Mobility
  • Security
  • CapEx
  • OpEx
  • Energy Savings
  • Manageability
  • Support

End users can access their Windows desktops and applications anywhere, anytime from any device.  Critical applications are located inside the secure datacenter.  Thin clients, zero clients, and Chromebooks last longer than PCs and laptops, thus eliminating the need for a 3 and 5 Year PC refresh.  VDI makes it easier to deliver software updates and patches. With the push of a button you can load software to hundreds at a time, not hundreds of separate installs.  Virtual desktops don’t have the typical problems that PCs do, you can simply reboot back to a clean snapshot.

CLOUD DESKTOPS MADE EASY

How do you take advantage of these benefits? You must start off correctly, with a VDI Proof of Concept and Assessment.  Test plans are crucial to finishing well.  You must account for every scenario in the test plans or suffer the wrath in production.  Without perfect prior planning, you get piss poor results.  And lastly, nobody cares which virtual desktop you use just so long as the virtual desktop performs as good as or better than the local PC or laptop.  Register here to qualify for a trial copy!

Top 7 Things To Watch In 2015!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cloud-Computing

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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