Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tech Around Town - Week of April 28, 2008

Today's Columbus Tech Winning Quotient (CTWQ) question: What Columbus, Ohio, organization (for 100 years) owns and distributes the largest scientific database in the world, with the most comprehensive compendium of chemical substances (35 million and counting), and is the number one external information resource used by every major patent office (including the USPTO) in the world (because 35 to 40 percent of all new patents are chemical substances)? Answer: Click on this link

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Monday morning muses - April 28, 2008 - The bucket list and making a change

OK - here's a little something to start your day.

1. Take a out a piece if paper
2. Close your eyes and ask yourself the question
3 . "What are 10 things that I'd like to do before I kick the bucket?"
4. Take a moment to write down the list.
5. Ask yourself the question - "What holds me back from doing some of the things on my list?"

For some of you it's time, for other's it's money, for many it's a fear of the unknown and not knowing where to start.

In case you had something about starting a business or getting involved with a startup on your list let me suggest a few items to kick start your efforts.

1. Go down to the local library (reserve a few hours) and spend some time reading Fast Company, Inc, and Entrepreneur magazines to learn about other's who've taken that leap into entrepreneurship. (mmmm...isn't it amazing how those entrepreneurs aren't really any different than you and I...they just decided one day to make it happen and had the strength to work through the hard times)

2. Open your outlook calendar and schedule 15 minutes a day to read up on what's happening in the world. Bookmark the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, Columbus Business First, and Columbus Tech Blog. (get a world, national and local view of things)

3. Network, network, network - Go to the TechColumbus website, look at the schedule of the events and attend something. Reach out at the event, hand out your business card, and look for ways to help someone out. (learn something new and pay it forward).

Whether it's starting a business or something else don't procrastinate. I bet if you take 5 minutes you can figure out a way to move forward on something on that list. Do it now.....


Here's a simple model to consider regarding change:

The Change Model Formula (Change Equation) is:

D x V x F > R


Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance to Change

It is important to note that the three components must all be present to overcome the resistance to change: Dissatisfaction with the present situation, a Vision of what is possible in the future, and achievable First steps towards reaching this vision.

If any of the three is zero or near zero, the product will also be zero or near zero and the resistance to change will dominate. (translation - the status quo will continue to exist and the words should have, could have, if I only ....continue)

P.S - this equation is also very useful in organizational situations - long lasting change only occurs if you have all three ingredients. Without D,V, and F you''ll just end up spinning your wheels.

Peace Out,


Saturday, April 26, 2008

My weekly missives moving to Thursday

To keep Columbus Tech content flowing as more of a regular stream than in bursts, I am moving my regular weekly publishing day to Thursday. This seems like a better complement to Ben's “Monday Morning Muses” than to compete for your attention on Monday morning. I might on occasion post additional content on other days, but regular Thursday publication is my objective. Hopefully you'll find it easier to pay attention to Columbus Tech and to participate by submitting your comments if content is coming your way in smaller pieces.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday morning muses - April 21, 2008 - What's your CTWQ?

On Sunday I was thrilled to see that the Dispatch had written a story that profiled several of the cool technology companies being incubated at TechColumbus. The reason I’m excited is that it shows that we are doing a better job of publicizing what going “right” in our community

One of the things that builds momentum and energy is a “feeling” that we have a track record of winning. Take a second to take the quiz below and check out your CTWQ (Columbus Tech Winning Quotient). Enjoy!

  1. What Columbus Institution played a major role in developing “Xerox” technology?
  2. What is the name of the nation’s only non-profit IT test and training facility?
  3. Where can high school students learn sophisticated computer modeling and simulation skills that can be applied in diverse areas such as weather forecasting and “virtual prototyping” ?
  4. What Dublin company has earned a world class reputation for being experts in corrosion and materials industry?
  5. What local fund ,with over 100 members, provides investment capital for commercialization of innovations in life sciences, information technology and physical sciences?
  6. What company helps save energy by helping utility companies improve the reliability of distribution and transmission systems?
  7. Where can you find essential business information on over 45 million companies? (Hint they were a 2007 TopCAT winner ) ?
  8. What organization provide services for more than 60,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories locate, acquire, catalog, lend and preserve library materials?
  9. Which two OSU researchers recently won a $1mm global award(Dan David prize) for achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on the world? Their work has produced some of the most detailed and comprehensive records of how climates change over many centuries and across the Earth. That information is vital for efforts to accurately forecast how the world’s climate may change in the future.
  10. Where should your first stop be if want to build a tech based business in Columbus?


  1. Battelle - http://www.battelle.org/
  2. Platform Lab - http://www.platformlab.org/
  3. Ohio Super Computing Center - http://www.osc.edu/press/releases/2008/summer_academy.shtml
  4. CCTechnologies - http://cctechnologies.com/aboutcctech.htm
  5. Ohio Tech Angels - http://www.ohiotechangels.com/index.htm
  6. Exacter - http://www.exacterinc.com/index.php
  7. ECNext - http://www.ecnext.com/
  8. OCLC - http://www.oclc.org/us/en/default.htm
  9. Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson - http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/dandavid.htm
  10. TechColumbus - http://www.techcolumbus.org/

Interpreting your CTWQ - # correct

1-3 - Pretty average – most people aren’t really aware of the great tech things happening in Columbus

3-5 - Better than the average bear - you’re keeping up with what’s going on

5+ - Supergenius - you’ve got a handle on Columbus’ tech pulse. You’re an official tech ambassador

Peace Out,


Computing for Non-Technologists

What can we technologists reasonably expect from people who use our stuff but have no particular expertise in how these gizmos work?

That's a hard question to answer generally. The answer, I think, depends on eleventy billion (give or take) specifics.

The specifics of computer technology, for example, typically need not be understood by users. Even people who depend utterly on them—bloggers, for example—no longer need to know much of anything about how computers work, or even how text is encoded or handled by computers. Just a few years ago, publishing online meant understanding at least some basics of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) that defines how text is displayed by Web browsers. Those fortunate enough to do their writing within an organization with support staff could at least count on others to take care of such technical details, much like writers for printed publications can let specialists deal with the technicalities of typesetting. With the proliferation of What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get editors built in to sites like Google's Blogger, no longer need writers think about HTML to publish for themselves.

I know more than one person who went into a career field like law supposing that the lack of need to deal with technology was a bonus. Only now are people learning that no matter what your chosen profession, you need to have some understanding of what you're working with. Law in particular has undergone massive changes as it attempts to work with information that has gone from a time when it was “encoded” on paper to being encoded in an arrangement of electrons.

To help my clients get their jobs done, I make it a point of understanding not just the details of the technology—an absolute must in my work as an expert witness who explains how computers work in court—but what parts of the technology attorneys need to care about and what they need to know about those parts. As it turns out, with just a few guiding principles and some examples to drive the points home, an attorney can go from a technical illiterate to someone able to practice with confidence even when the information needed for adjudication is electronic. I'll be presenting a three-hour continuing legal education (CLE) seminar on electronic information for the Columbus Bar Association on Thursday morning.

What do you find that your clients, customers, partners, and coworkers need to understand about your technology? How do you help them to know what they need without having them get bogged down with details that are irrelevant to them?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Making a difference in the next generation - TECH CORPS Ohio

For the last several years I've had a relationship with TECH CORPS Ohio...I wanted to take a minute and introduce you to do them in the hopes that you might want to check them out and get involved and make a difference in the most important ingredient in building a world class technology community - our children.

TECH CORPS Ohio makes a difference this by bringing technology resources to schools dedicated to improving K-12 education at the grassroots level by helping educators and students effectively use technology in their schools.

This year close to 300 students' lives will be directly impacted and educated through the Tech Corps program. If you're interested in making a difference in a young person's life check them out at their blog - click here . Here's a video about them - click here.

You can also learn more about them by attending Tech Night 6.0 - a fundraising reception to benefit the work of TECH CORPS Ohio. Thursday, May 8, 2008 5:30 - 7:30pm Gateway Health and Wellness Center 112 Jefferson Avenue Columbus, Ohio 43215 To RSVP email: rsvp@techcorpsohio.org

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Starting a Business is a Big Distraction - from Wil Schroter @ Go BIG Network

Following is thought provoking read from Wil - comments??

Nothing gets in the way of building a great company like trying to get it launched. Unfortunately the process of starting a company is a huge distraction that actually gets in the way of building a company.

Let me explain the difference first.

Starting a company involves all the preparation work of determining your business model, writing a business plan, organizing your office and sifting through a ton of legal documents.

Building a company involves improving your product, selling your product, and ultimately, generating revenue.

While starting a company is certainly a necessary evil toward building a company, that doesn’t mean you need to bury yourself in the details. There are lots of ways you can shortcut the startup process so that you can get on to building your company right away.

Damn the Plan

Nothing is going to waste more time in getting started than preparing a whole bunch of planning documents that you may never use. You can spend months preparing business plans, market strategies and evil master plans to conquer the entire world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve pushed the company forward.

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely value in brainstorming and planning your business before you go to market. But at some point you’ve got to just call it a day and get started. Your plan will help you set a general direction, but until you get into the market and see how things work in the real world, all you’ve got is a best guess.

In the meantime, consider a five page business overview that charts your general direction. Focus on the key assumptions you’re trying to prove, like what the price point of your product might be. Later on you can go back and adjust the bigger plan once you’ve got some real market data based on your actual experience.

Dump the Docs

All of the legal documents that typically support your plan can add another massive layer or procrastination toward building your business. You can spend (even more) months working through Operating Agreements, Employment Agreements, and Non-Disclosure Agreements to get the perfect legal argument to any foreseeable situation.

The only thing this will guarantee is that you’ll have a mountain of paperwork, another few months tacked onto your launch date, and a giant legal bill to go with it.

While the fundamental legal documents that govern your company are important, they are only really important if you have a successful company worth protecting. What may be helpful right now is to simply modify standard boilerplate agreements versus writing a bunch of new legal documents from scratch. As you learn more about your business you can always modify your documents accordingly.

No Go on the Logo

Logo creation is another area where startups waste way too much time. Unless you’re launching a new line of footwear or a soft drink, chances are your logo isn’t going to make or break you. No one is going to make a purchase decision based on the Pantone value you chose from the color wheel, or whether you chose a swoosh or a circle to envelop your company name.

The same thinking goes for just about all of your collateral items. There are plenty of stock templates that will give you a very professional look and feel without having to spend a lot of time and money. Simply perform a Web search on “Logo Template” and you’ll find plenty of great looking options for next to nothing.

Throw the Systems out the Window

If you really had the time (which you don’t) you could implement plenty of systems to handle everything from your financial reporting to your payroll to your project management process. The reality though is that you are going to generate four invoices, pay two people, and manage basically yourself and a few partners over the next year.

The most valuable time you can save right now is forgoing the implementation of a bunch of redundant systems that you may never leverage.

Later on you can implement a bunch of sweet software packages and systems. Right now you just need a couple spreadsheets and email. Leverage systems when the value of having the system far outweighs the time and expense of implementing one.

Sell Now, Build Later

The smartest thing you can do to start a company is to actually start the company.

The faster you can get on to selling your product the better. Building a company is a long process, but not necessarily a sequential one. You don’t have to wait until you’ve completed some imaginary startup checklist before you can begin talking to customers and generating revenue.

There’s not much about forming a business that you can’t change and amend later once you start to generate steam. When that time does come, you can feel good about the time you’re investing because you’ve already proven it’s a company worth spending time on.

Wil Schroter is the Founder and CEO of the Go BIG Network, the largest network of startup companies and entrepreneurs at www.goBIGnetwork.com. He is also the author of the new book “Go BIG or Go HOME”.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Advice to Ohio’s Information Technology Teachers

Today I will be presenting the topic “IT Needs to Earn Its Promotion” at the itWORKS.OHIO conference for teachers of information technology (IT) programs throughout Ohio’s educational system.

My thesis is that IT as an industry and IT workers individually generally want to be taken seriously but need to earn desired influence—which means far more than knowing which button to push when a light starts blinking. Students being given training in specific tools and techniques can be equipped easily enough for the short term, entry into the job market where they can be employed to perform technical tasks. What many don’t realize is that even technical tasks performed perfectly are nearly useless without being framed properly. Albert Einstein and his work achieved fame not only because it was profound but also because he took the time to explain the meaning of his work to “ordinary” people who would never read a formal scientific paper. (“When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.”) Herein is a valuable lesson for technology workers: never lose sight of the meaning of your work—not just to yourself but to others. The ability to help other people to understand why your work matters to them is the path of advancement.

The takeaway for the teachers in the audience is that they need to help students with technical aptitude look beyond the questions of what and how and to develop a sense of why. For a thriving Ohio economy tomorrow, Ohio’s workforce must understand why they do what they do and Ohio’s industry must put that expertise to good use.

Using my own experience leading an assessment ordered by the Governor of the State of Ohio that was both highly technical and highly visible, I show why not only must there be excellence in content but ever-present understanding of context. I describe the two assessment teams that my firm called up for the assignment, the roles played by various members, and the disciplines used throughout the process. I also highlight some related research my firm has undertaken around personal information loss incidents. This view behind the scenes is meant to make clear what my firm is looking for when we hire so that can in turn be used to show why the itWORKS.OHIO IT education content standards are so important and go far beyond the basic technical tasks of entry-level IT technicians.

What advice would you offer to teachers of tomorrow's tech workforce?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Interesting events to check out - click on the event title

Last weeks thumbs up!!

Lakeshore Cryotronics reaches 40th anniversary

Nationwide give $700k to Otterbein science center project

Nextumi raises $15m in funding

Please feel free to send me info on links to others you'd like to give a thumbs up to.



Sunday, April 13, 2008

Monday morning muses - April 14, 2008 - Never give up/top 11 list

Good morning,

I'm a little sore right now (ok a lot - and I'm still walking down the stairs like an old man). You see I had this harebrained idea that it might be fun to run a half marathon this weekend. What was I thinking?

As I searched for inspiration to complete my run I reflected back to a video that has some wonderful lessons that I'd like to share with you....(It is well worth the ten minutes - please take it) - just click on the link

Hopefully this video has given you a little Monday morning inspiration !!

Peace out,

P.S. My top 11 list of things I learned running that are applicable to business and building a vibrant Columbus Tech Community

1. If you wait until you think you're ready to run the race you'll never run the race

2. Don't go out too fast too early or you'll burn out and cramp up

3. When the race seems too long to finish - focus on finishing the next smaller interval

4. There is no surer way to ensure you're going to run a race than by signing up (and paying the entrance fee) - look for ways to commit yourself so you don't chicken out

5. Make sure that you take drink at all the water breaks
6. Train smart - it's not about running miles - it's about running quality miles
7. Get used to fact that over a long race you will get uncomfortable and feel some pain
8. Take time to enjoy the race experience. There's a lot of really interesting people around you. Just take a moment to say hello to them.
9. Smile during the race - you'll feel better
10. Wear a stopwatch and have a target for your time at various mile markers
11. Last but not least - it sure feel great to cross the finish line - take time to celebrate and then get back to training for the next race

A special thank to Dave Babner and the John Bingham Racing team for putting on a great race

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

(ISC)² Creates Award in Honor of Columbus Professional

(ISC)² is the certification organization behind the well-known Certified Information Systems Security Professional credential (CISSP), the first information security certification accredited by ANSI to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 17024:2003. Among the elder statesmen who helped to make the organization and certification what it is today is Jim Wade, most recently of Columbus. In his long and distinguished career, Jim served as a director for (ISC)², a president of the international Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), and held senior executive positions in both industry and government. Jim was lost to cancer at the end of October 2007.

At the RSA Conference 2008, (ISC)² held a reception for members announcing, among other things, a new service award for information security professionals. "In honor of the selfless and lifelong contributions of our esteemed colleague," read the notice from (ISC)², "we want to recognize volunteers who have made a sustained and valuable contribution to (ISC)²."

As I wrote yesterday, Columbus has a tremendously strong information security community, full of people whose impact is felt far and wide throughout the profession. With this new service award, the contributions of one such Columbus-based professional will be memorialized.


Better Best Practices

Posting Provided by Rick Robinson -

Here's an excellent article I recently read:

"Finally, the expert simply doesn't use best practices, because they don't use any practices at all! In fact the expert subverts best practices in order to get work done (or rather, subverts the policing processes that inevitably accompany best practices). Best practices are a necessary evil that must be lived with but should not be allowed to hold them back.

These last two levels, and especially the expert, can quickly come to resent practice-based initiatives, in exactly the same way that the competent person resents being given task-level detail. ("Put the red eight there, under the black nine, then you can free up that ace."). You aren't just back seat driving when you constrain an expert to rules, you are invalidating their hard-won instinct and intuition."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Checking in from RSA 2008

Greetings from San Francisco. I'm here not for the carrying, defense, or protest of the Olympic torch. I am here for the RSA conference 2008. I'm hardly alone; the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that I'm here with about 17,000 colleagues. Among them are a number of Columbus-based security professionals.

Something that even the local technology community might not recognize is the tremendous level of information security and privacy talent that we have in Columbus. I don't mean just people who are taking on security and privacy work as part of their normal jobs or people who are going into a field that's perceived as hot. We have a tremendously accomplished group of professionals who have been providing thought leadership not just within their own firms or within their own communities, but are doing so at the national and international level. RSA, presented in San Francisco, is a pretty good view of some of what's happening in information security, and more than a little bit of it is coming from Columbus. Maybe you know some of the practitioners who are advancing the state of the art or the businesses that keep the industry alive and healthy.

Dan Houser, Sr. Security Architect at Cardinal Health, is likely the winner of the unofficial contest to see who can spend the most time presenting at a conference this year. He has five separate presentations, including the two presentations he had in the pre-conference.

Rounding out the Columbus information security contingent that I saw at last night's conference reception was Kevin Flanagan of RSAEMC (also presenting), Mike Radigan of Cisco Systems, and Jeff Sweet of DP Sciences.

Let me know if I've missed anyone. I'll check in again later in the week with developments of interest to the local tech community. Are there concerns that you have about information security that might be addressed here? What security issues are on your mind? I'll let you know the latest and best thinking on the issues that concern you.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday morning muses - April 7, 2008 - You gotta swing

Saturday morning, I sat down with my wife Sandy and she informed me that she had heard (on the sidelines of the morning's soccer game) that Skybus had gone out of business. As I heard the news my mind raced into damage control mode - we had purchased tickets for three separate trips for summer travel on Skybus - now what?

The good news is that I think we'll get all of our money back and we'll still be able to have one vacation trip (the second one got tanked - it's not cheap to fly with a family of six) . In fact it was amazingly simple to call someone early on a Sunday morning, have them pull up my account info and arrange for credit. All in the span of less than 2 minutes. Wow - the power of technology.

Anyhow while I bemoan the fact that Skybus tanked I also applaud the fact that we, in Columbus, gave it a shot.

It is a scientific fact that you will never hit a ball that you don't swing at.

As Thomas Edison said:

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

For us to grow technology in Columbus we have to foster a culture that encourages and celebrates taking a risk.

News flash - innovation and growth is correlated to taking a risk.

Rather than play Monday morning quarterback I'd rather see us focus our energies on what are the lessons to be learned and move on quickly from there. I'm glad that the board was bold enough to make a decision to pull the plug after the appropriate debates. I sure hope that the board (and the Skybus investors) decide to take another swing.

If you believe that you gotta swing to hit the ball - what are each of doing to encourage risk taking and innovation on your teams? What have you personally done in the last 90 days outside of your comfort zone? Change has to start on a individual basis.

We as a community will never win on the global stage if we are playing not to lose.

We gotta play to win

As my kids say - peace out.

Happy Monday - Ben

Saturday, April 5, 2008

SkyBus Tanks

Late last night, I saw the sad news that SkyBus was ceasing all operations. Today's Columbus Dispatch has a longer story on the end of SkyBus. There is also an article in the Wall Street Journal that puts SkyBus' failure in context with other low-cost airline failures of late. (Namely, MAXjet in December, Aloha going back into Chapter 11 a few weeks ago, and of course ATA ceasing flights on the same day as SkyBus.)

It seems to me that this is not just a Columbus business story but also a Columbus technology story. SkyBus pursued a different model for an airline, not just no-frills a la Southwest, but one that actively and aggressively used technology to reduce operating costs. Famously, there was no call center to handle requests for you; everything was done through its “innovative and user-friendly” Web site. Last October, SkyBus CEO Bill Diffenderffer told attendees of the TechColumbus Tech Leaders Luncheon about the importance of being “transformative.” And what better way to be transformative than to use technology to enable business functions that otherwise wouldn't be possible?

Something seems strange to me, for there to be so much talk about not accepting the status quo and changing the way that business is done and then to hear that the rising cost of jet fuel is to blame for the airline's demise. I simply cannot imagine that the cost of fuel was not something given serious consideration in risk analysis such that there wasn't a plan in place for being able to operate with higher fuel costs. It's not like SkyBus was the only carrier that had to pay for expensive fuel. It also seems to me that if your objective is to be the cheapest and most easy-to-use airline, you need to worry more about relative pricing than absolute pricing unless your model is predicated on people taking flights tha they otherwise would not simply because you're below some absolute threshold where you're down into the disposable cash of your target market.

Was the model really that weak? Is the industry already in a position where cost savings from using technology better and replacing expensive manual processes with automatic ones aren't enough to matter?

Update: At the Cup o Joe at Port Columbus on Sunday morning, they're running a new special, pictured nearby.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

One of Central Ohio's own spotlighted in Wall Street Journal

In case you missed it - Ventech Solutions featured in WSJ yesterday



A update from TechColumbus regarding the most recent Forbes ranking

Following is a link to TechColumbus' response to the recent Forbes ranking

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Benchmarking Central Ohio 2007

So the local media has been all abuzz about the Benchmarking Central Ohio 2007 Report.

I have yet to peruse the whole thing but a quick glance shows a few things that are interesting to me:

  • High Tech Industries (Indicator 2.08) is below (0.83) the national average (1.0);
  • We're pretty far down on the list for Venture Capital Investment (Indicator 2.03);
  • We're doing well on the Brain Gain (Indicator 2.17);
  • We suck for public transit (4.08);
  • We're great for libraries (4.11); and
  • Number of Arts establishments (4.13) is pathetic.

What do you see? Do you buy the results?