Thursday, May 29, 2008

Interview with a entrepreneur – Eric Schmidt

Eric is a entrepreneur who is the senior exec at two companies. He is President, iBeam Solutions LLC and CEO of the Language Access Network Inc.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Eric Schmidt. I was born at Riverside here in Columbus, and raised in Sugar Grove, Ohio. I attended Berne Union High School graduating in 1981, and went to Ohio University for college after high school. I dropped out in my second quarter and decided to change my life by joining the US Marine Corps in 1982. I learned a lot about technology in the Corps and traveling the world, including a period of time when I worked for Naval Investigative Services on secret projects, and stint and a nuclear weapons station. After getting married, having my two daughters and serving my second term, I elected to leave the Marines Corps and return home to find a job in the technology sector in Columbus, Ohio in 1988. I was hired as Network Engineer for The Department of Medicine Foundation, then a few years later moved on to become Director of Information Services for The College of Humanities at The Ohio State University. Four years later I was recruited away from Ohio State to become the Chief Information Officer of Bricker & Eckler, one of Central Ohio’s largest law firms. While there for over 7 years, 4 case studies were written about our accomplishments by Microsoft, and my face appeared for 18 months in Microsoft ads around the globe. I have also won the Network Night Community Service award, been a two time finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and and my company have been a finalist for 10 TopCAT Awards. I also speak publicly on technology issues and have delivered over 100 presentations in venues across the country, and appeared on Fox News with Pat Summerall on his program Summerall Success Stories.

What motivated you to start iBeam Solutions?

My fifth year at Bricker & Eckler, I asked the managing partner if I could start a technology services practice for the firms clients while at the firm. I noticed that while I had moved the firm forward by making them the first law firm in Ohio to have a web site, it was obvious that corporate America did not understand the Internet and what it meant to the future. So we began creating the first web sites for companies like M/I Homes, The Ohio Dental Association and Dublin City Schools. Our small practice began to grow, and we worked with the firm to spin us off and create iBeam Solutions to continue this work and expand in to other areas. It became obvious that IT professionals were tired of working with many vendors, so we set the bar high to become a total IT services company including web design and hosting, networks, phone systems, security, forensic work, cabling and so on all under one roof.

What was your biggest challenge in building ibeam? Can you describe some of the ups and down moments in the last few years?

The largest challenge still remains a challenge – customer confidence. As a small company, many large companies want to deal with Microsoft, IBM, HP or very large resellers and consulting shops. There is this misconception that smaller shops are not as good as the large ones. For example, a large retailer here in Central Ohio would not look at iBeam for upgrading wireless in their stores. They outsourced to a company in Minnesota, that turned around and outsourced the job back to iBeam unbeknownst to the retailer. I believe we need to get people in Ohio to understand the power of their spending, and how it can support our businesses and grow them instead of businesses in other states or countries. I hear a lot of people talk about creating jobs in Ohio in technology, but many do not follow that up by trying to buy services from companies like iBeam that are based here in Ohio. Something as simple as hosting your web site with a company like iBeam can make a large difference in IT jobs and employment here in Ohio. Another large challenge for us was 9/11. We were less than a year old when the world was shook by terrorism with this horrible event. The resulting economic downturn was tough for us, and weathering challenges like this can be devastating for many small businesses. Most small businesses do not have deep enough pockets to weather issues like this, and I believe the plight of the small business owner in this event and others like it goes largely unnoticed. It is also tough to watch business hire competitors from other states and country’s while trying to create jobs locally. The impact in tax dollars and the local economy is not understood as I wish it were. The other issue we face is educating small to medium size business about ongoing management and maintenance of technology. Technology is not “set it and forget it”. It must be maintained and managed or bigger, more expensive issues will abound. Many small businesses do not understand the old adage “a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as it applies to technology. Still others try to hire a friends son or an acquaintance that knows something about computers, instead of hiring a trained technology professional. Thus many small business have critical failures in their technology that impacts their business greatly, and it could have been avoided. It is really rewarding though when this is understood, and you see businesses more successful and able to focus on their business and its core competencies, and not technology problems.

How did you get to to LAN? What is you role there? What do you hope to accomplish?

LAN actually called us back in 2006 looking for CIO level services. I offered my services to them personally and got to know them quite well. I serve as CIO for them ongoing. My passion for working with them, and what I hope to accomplish, is getting their service out there widely. This is not just about growing their business however. The main reason is I see the need, and have witnessed the impact their service provides to humanity for those that are Limited English Proficient or hard of hearing or deaf. It is very rewarding to see these individuals smile or even cry with joy because they can finally understand and be understood. Those of us that do not face these challenges take communication with care givers, pharmacists, banks and other providers for granted. This service breaks down barriers for our society and can help bring the quality of care that many enjoy to those that have communication barriers. It is a wonderful use of technology, and is also creating jobs here in Central Ohio which is also very important to me. I believe this will be the silicon valley of the midwest, and it is companies and innovative services like this that will continue to build that for all of us.

What advice do you have for a tech entrepreneur?

Find a good accountant, one that really understands your market and wants to help you succeed. Understand that if starting a business was easy, everyone would do it. Know that if it’s about money, starting a business is not a good choice as the pay is lower, the hours are longer, but the rewards can come in the intangibles like setting your own course, innovation and creativity, and the sense of accomplishing something great. Network, listen, get involved in the community and in organizations like Tech Columbus that can help extend your network and help you understand the bigger picture.

What do you do when you're not working?

I am actually a country person and a family person, so spending time with my family, and spending time outdoors are two large passions of mine outside of the office. It is nice to disconnect and look at the world we live in outside of technology. My wife Brenda and I own 45 acres in the Hocking Hills, and have taken up hiking, hunting, morel mushroom hunting, gardening and many nature related hobbies. We are big fans of Mother Earth News, and want to some day build a home on this property that is self sufficient powered by wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. I also have a passion for old cars, but wish I had more time to actually work on them. I own a 66 Mustang and a 72 Fiat Spider convertible that need a lot of work, but thus far have had little time or money to work on them. So for now I store them for later in life. In my younger days I restored a 71 Mach 1 Musting, and a 66 Chevelle, and look forward to returning to that hobby as life allows. I have 4 daughters ages 19-22, and a son age 15, so spending time with them is very precious.

If I were not a CEO/CIO I would be a:

Organic farmer. I used to farm growing up and really enjoyed it, but the money was not there to make a good living doing that. I do have a garden on my property in the Hocking Hills, I have already tilled it this year, and we are getting ready to plant sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, etc. FYI we have already found over 130 morel mushrooms this year down there as well.

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Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2008

For the past eighteen years, the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference has considered what it means to live in the digital age in a society that values liberty and privacy. This year, the conference was held near Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

My trip began well enough, showing some promise that would go along with living in a well-connected world. While I waited to board my flight from Columbus to Philadelphia—everything to and from New Haven apparently goes through Philadelphia—I was able to get on the Port Columbus WiFi. Unlike at some places, Port Columbus systems seem to work properly. I sat next to a lady who asked me if I could make the font on my MacBook larger so that she'd be able to read what I'm writing more easily. I complied, advising her that if she did in fact read what I was writing, she might find that she's unable to sleep at night. I was responding to a note that someone sent me in response to an article that I wrote several years ago about how a third-party marketing metrics service affects the privacy of site visitors. I didn't much have the heart to tell her the topic of the conference I was off to attend. In any case, the situation seemed to reinforce the idea that this technology around us will take some time to figure out how to handle comfortably.

A more apropos realization could hardly be choreographed for me; ultimately that was the topic of the conference I was off to attend. A few of the sessions that I found particularly interesting included Mike Godwin's presentation on “Constitutional Law in Cyberspace,” wherein he showed the legal history of some of the most commonly-invoked provisions of the U.S. Constitution in the protection of critical rights online. Other stimulating sessions included the panel discussions on spyware policy, The Transparent Society: Ten Years Later, and Towards Trustworthy e-Voting: An Open Source Approach.

I managed to get the last question in the trustworthy voting session, two minutes after the session was supposed to end. I challenged the assertion that open source software was sufficient for providing trustworthy systems. Aside from the obvious issues that arise with the need to rely on hardware—also open source?—there is good historical reason to question what the system is doing even if you have the code. At the end of the day, when dealing with trustworthy systems, the question is going to be the same as it always is: Whom do you trust?

As usual, some of my most memorable conversations happened spontaneously. After my reference to Ken Thompson's Reflections on Trusting Trust, I was pulled aside by someone who appreciated the backreference, lamenting the fact that there are far too many people who subscribe to the notion that open source means better security in practice. Of course, given the recent Debian Linux security fiasco, there weren't too many people willing to make this argument quite as adamantly as they might have a few weeks earlier.

If any one clear issue emerged from the sessions that I attended, it's that these kinds of issues aren't going away anytime soon. It's going to take us quite some time to figure out how to get this digital technology right, and doing the right things for us, rather than the wrong things to us.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Curmudgeon Report

Contributed by Brett Gerke

First, I am an academic. I feel a need to disclose this in the same manner as alcoholics disclose their affliction. As I have been told, the purpose of an academic is: research, discover and disclose the truth. Then you need to publish… without being controversial, offending anyone, and without making any statements you can’t back up empirically. In other words, nobody wants to know what you think, just what you know. This can be very frustrating. So this is my catharsis, my vent, and you’re the suckers, ahem, target audience for these rants. So… welcome to the part of my brain that doesn’t get exercised much. So here’s what I think:

I see no value in loyalty to a vendor.

I don’t see how using one vendor equates to having an ’ enterprise architecture’.

I’d hate to think that one product line is ‘the total solution’.

I don’t believe that anything with a name that includes the word ‘toolkit’ to be of any worth.

I don’t think that you need to genuflect each time you say the name ‘Gartner Group’.

I embrace the pure theory of Open Source and Open Systems though I think it is impossible for this movement to gain widespread traction where everyone has purple lips from drinking the Microsoft, Oracle, or IBM Kool-Aid.

What if the hokey- pokey is really what it’s all about?

I think anyone that believes their computer software can create ‘actionable intelligence’ is not very intelligent.

I think business needs to stop looking for the right answers and spend their time coming up with the right questions.

I believe that the new knowledge workers are cut from a different cloth than in the past. Therefore, they must be managed differently. Old management styles are not going to be successful with the new generations of graduates.

Change needs to be embraced, not managed.

Thanks for reading this far! I feel better… If any of these subjects hit a nerve, please let me know so I can explain my thoughts. If you agree, ditto…

And if you need any research done… I’m here for you.

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Cisco Networking Academy Celebrates 10 years in Ohio

The Cisco Networking Academy, a public/private education program focused on fostering economic development through providing training in IT as well as math, engineering and science to secondary schools and colleges across the state, celebrated it's 10th Anniversary in Ohio today at the Riffe Center in Columbus.

Attended by Governor Ted Strickland and House Speaker Jon Husted, the event marked 10 years of partnership between the state and the Networking Academy, which is run by the San Jose based networking company, Cisco and pinpointed the success of several Columbus area students. Columbus' own Eric Schmidt of iBeam Solutions was a guest speaker at the event.

Dedicated to the idea that technology education and training has the potential to change lives and create economic opportunities, the Networking Academy is embedded into the curriculum of 93 schools across the state and has educated more than 18,000 Ohio students in the arts of routing and switching, Network Architecture and advanced communications.

With the manufacturing sector increasingly moving offshore and the Bureau of Labor Statistics now estimating that employment in computer systems design and related services will grow by 39.5 percent and add almost one-fourth of all new jobs created (see post below) over the next five years, programs like the Networking Academy are prepping the next generation of networking professionals and expanding the global pipeline for IT talent.

"Almost everything we do is moving to the network-email, VoIP telephones, document collaboration, image editing, databases-the list is endless and will get longer as technology evolves," said Marie Zwickert, Cisco Area Account Manager, who manages the Networking Academy Program in Ohio. "By providing technology training we're hoping to help prepare students to fill that 25 percent of the emerging labor market as well as foster the next generation of IT innovation."

The Columbus Public schools, as well as the Columbus Northeast Career Center are the primary participants within city limits. In the 12th congressional district there are also sites in Delaware, the Dublin City Schools, New Albany High School and the Career center in Newark

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Night Muses - May 26, 2008

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend enjoying the great weather with your families

.... Talent and Treasure...did you know that you can search for interns at... people can also search for internships on the for the treasure part - funds are available to pay for internships through the Third Frontier program - click here for more info

.....I'm excited to share with you that we're adding a few new featured articles in the upcoming week.
- Interview with a Entrepreneur - get to know our local entrepreneurs up close and personal
- The Curmudgeon Report - a different view on things

.....You never know - Had a end of season soccer party for my daughter's team and realized that one of the dad's on the team (Bob Mahaffey) was a successful entrepreneur who has business creating customized elearning courseware at Xcelerate Media...with a blue ribbon list of customers (i.e. - Oracle, Caterpillar, Cardinal Health, Johnson and Johnson, Exel Logistics) the must be doing something right..check them out by clicking here .Turns out that they are portfolio company of Reservoir Venture Partners...

....Funding News -

LSP Technologies, located in Dublin , was recommended for $350,000 in funding for the establishment of a business division to manufacture, sell, and service Laser Bond Inspection Technology.. click here for more details

.....Reader's - please continue to send your facts, tidbits, and commentary on the local tech scene..we've grown to several hundred readers and I'm amazed at the news items and commentaries being sent to me...keep em coming

..on the lighter side...found a great tool for you bike riders out there your ride at
....for runnners/walkers go to ...what a cool set of tools

Peace Out,


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Friday, May 23, 2008

Job growth

Did you know....

In the last 12 years, employment in manufacturing has dipped 15 percent according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, but at the same time, employment in professional, scientific, and technical services will grow by 28.4 percent and add 1.9 million new jobs by 2014.

BLS also estimates that employment in computer systems design and related services will grow by 39.5 percent and add almost one-fourth of all new jobs created over the next five years.

The question is how are business' going to fill this gap?

What is your business doing to be proactive? Are you concerned?

Ask yourself the question - when I look around how much of my current work force is going to retire in the next ten years and how am I going to fill those roles - am I really comfortable with my succession and staffing plan or am I winging it and hope that the talent will be there?

...more on this topic to come

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GroundWork Group visited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

....Our very own GroundWork Group got a visit from the Paul King of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (a little $40Billion fund dedicated to bringing innovations in health and learning to the global community). Turns out that they heard about the good works being done by the GroundWork Group, initiated a call to GroundWork Group to learn more and decided to come out to see for themselves what's being done here in Columbus. Paul King's quote was “This was an extraordinary meeting”.

Remember folks the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking for scalable solutions to address global issues. What a compliment to the GroundWork Group team that they are being talked to.. Stay tuned..this is awfully exciting

The GroundWork Group's mission is:

Enhancing the capacity of nonprofit organizations to achieve their missions through information management and technology.

Check out their website for more info - click here.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ethics in Technology

Sometimes we're so occupied trying to figure out how to do things that we forget to figure out whether we should.

Earlier this week, I was reading W.I.B. Beveridge's classic text, The Art of Scientific Investigation. I was struck by a passage that Beveridge included. “Pasteur's rabies treatment has never been proved by proper experiment to prevent rabies when given to persons after they have been is impossible to conduct a trial in which this treatment is withheld from a control group of bitten persons.”

What if that treatment really isn't particularly effective? Might more harm than good be done to public health by continuing the practice? What if it were possible to use proper scientific analysis to determine how efficacious the treatment is, or to improve upon the treatment? Isn't the upside big enough that it's worth considering?

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting at a program for appellate judges in the state of Wisconsin. The morning session of the seminar was presented by John J. Paris, Michael P. Walsh Professor of Bioethics at Boston College. He raised one issue of particular relevance to our present discussion: the view apparently promulgated by Jeremiah Wright and others in the ‘black church’ that the U.S. Government created AIDS as a genocidal weapon against black citizens. That the government of the United States would engage in such action seems preposterous to many others. After all, this isn't Hitler's Germany, nor is it Stalin's Soviet Union, nor is it Saddam's Iraq.

“Where does this idea come from?” asked the professor. While perhaps extreme and possibly even dangerous to assert without any evidence, the concept isn't completely devoid of foundation. As it turns out, the U.S. Government's Public Health Service ran a significant medical experiment, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In this study, roughly 400 men were studied for decades in an effort to understand how their syphilis was affecting them. All of the study's subjects were poor black men. They were not told their diagnosis. They were denied treatment options that otherwise would have been available.

Those unfamiliar with this bit of history would do well to give it consideration. The account is a shocking and disturbing example of how badly wrong things can go when science is practiced in a moral vacuum.

I work in digital information technology. In that field we often think that we don't have to deal with such hard problems. We're not counseling people through things like end-of-life decisions. We're not trying to figure out whether medications are effective. There are a lot of things that we don't do.

That isn't to say that we don't have ethical problems before us. For example, when we're told to build some system, do we work on getting it up and running or do we think more carefully about the kind of information that we're going to manage and take the time to ensure that the systems are being done safely, respecting the privacy of people who use the systems (or the services of organizations using the systems)? What about when it comes to formation of opinions regarding technology—for example, when it's ready for use?

The fact is that the systems that we build have side-effects, some of which stay with us for a long time. Building an international computer network where privacy of individual users isn't a consideration, for example, could go a long way to enabling totalitarianism. Larry Lessig wrote about these issues in his book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace.

My point is that as interesting as it is to talk about how to make things go, we sometimes need to think about whether we're really solving the right problem and whether our work is likely to have the impact that we expect that it will. These are matters that I think confront all technologists. As history has sadly shown us, pursuit of The Problem too narrowly (say, the mechanism of syphilis) can lead us astray and cause us to forget The Real Problem (human suffering), perhaps helping us to make some gains on the short-term goals even while causing us to forget where we're trying to get in the end.

Are technologists properly equipped to address these kinds of issues? Do we have frameworks for assessing when we should do things by comparison to when we shouldn't? How should we in technology address these kinds of issues? And, in the spirit of following my own advice, I'm obliged to add another question: Should we?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday Evening Thoughts - May 20, 2008 - Web 2.0 presentation embedded

Participated in a wonderful panel discussion on Web 2.0 today at OCLC and wanted to share the powerpoint discussion points (click on this link or view it below).

lThanks to our panelists for putting it all together.

Jasmine De Gaia - OCLC
lEd Billmaier - Scotts Co.
lStacey Elicker - Sync Creative
lAdam Torres - TeamDynamix
lStephen Webb - ICC

Here Adam and Stacey:

Thanks to TechColumbus (especially Cindy) for putting this on.

A few key takeaways for me -

1. Business strategy must drive any use of web 2.0 technologies. Before you embark on any investment ask yourself - what is my goal? how will I know that I'm successful?
2. Know your audience. Who are you talking to ? Do understand your customer segments? What data are you basing your assessments on? Are you looking at objective information or only anecdotal info? One size does not fit all
3. Don't forget to leverage your existing team members in the creation of content and the publicity of anything you do.
4. Consumers expect that sites will perform quickly. Make sure you pay attention to the performance of your site and what happens when you get some scale in the user base.
5. Cultural changes may be required to support the newfound openness and transparency fostered with Web 2.0
6. Technology matters - pick it carefully -there are a lot of lower cost platforms to enable web 2.0

Peace out,

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blogging vs. Printing

Anyone doubting Columbus' HQ (Hipness Quotient, of course) would be well advised to note that blogs all over town are noting that Columbus has been ranked as the eighth-bloggiest city in the country, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Naturally many of the Columbus blogs are abuzz with the news. The Other Paper also managed a cover story on the topic. Of course it's nice to see that Columbus is making good use of technology, helping to keep people tied together but I confess that I am disappointed in the real lack of thoughtful assessment about what it all means.

Blogging, in my view, does not replace the traditional role of print media. The simple fact is that blogging—or electronic publishing, more generally—is simply another medium available for the distribution of information. The idea of comparing a blog to The Columbus Dispatch is absurd. It's not only bloggers who are doing it, though: we're seeing tremendous problems with print media in general failing to find a viable business model in a world where the newsfeeds from AP, AFP, UPI, etc., are readily available.

There are cases where instant information publication makes sense. In these situations, broadcast media often is the most appropriate means to get the message out. The instant nature of blogging makes it possible to add this medium to that list of methods by which information can be distributed when the most important feature is speed.

Instantaneous publishing (or broadcasting, for that matter) brings with it other properties, including a lack of analysis borne of reflective thought, or even the ability to catch obvious errors. This kind of publishing is, therefore, not appropriate for every situation.

Furthermore, it's also true that bloggers can publish according to schedules if they so choose. In 2004, I began a Web site where I would write on topics other than those I addressed personally in writings elsewhere. Since I started that site nearly four years ago, I have published one article weekly, each Monday morning. Not only did this give me an outlet for writing, but Ergo Sum did not become a burden. If I should get a creative streak going and I produce a bunch of articles, I can queue them up for subsequent publication. Sometimes I'll get as much as five or six weeks ahead, which makes up for times when things get really busy and I have difficulty producing something worth reading in addition to all of my other work.

It's also worth noting that there are plenty of other blogs out there that are not all about speed. One of my favorites, for example, is all about reflective thought that inspires action. Find it at the Art of Manliness.

Finally, I'd like to return to the issue of the business model. Amid all of this discussion of what is and isn't relevant, or what will and won't make it into the future of publishing, we see some rays of hope. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has made a success out of publishing its newspaper in a digital world. Its Web site has not gone the route that so many others have—giving away free content in hoping of catching enough eyeballs to make support by advertising a viable option—but has instead continued to charge for its site. The critical difference is that what's online and what's in print aren't the same thing. Some types of information—such as breaking news—make sense for publication online, while other types of information—analysis of news and commentary on trends—make more sense for publication in print. Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Journal discussed these issues for the Chicago Graduate School of Business some time back, in a talk well-worth consideration. Consistent with new-media style, it's available online in the form of a podcast.

We do well to remember that new technology should do much more than displace “older” technology. Upgrade for the sake of upgrade is not sustainable or even very interesting. When we imagine how new technology can be used more creatively, we can find ways to exploit new business models that will make it possible to succeed even where a whole industry might otherwise implode.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tech Around Town - May 14, 2008

Web 2.0 - A Trend You Can't Ignore - Tues May 20
High Impact Leadership Workshop - June 26/27
Creating A Culture of Change - Becoming a employer of choice - June 24
Pinnacle close Q1 in the black
OpenText unveils Enterprise 2.0 strategy
New Albany Tech Start Event - Thursday May 15
Delaware County Capital Access 2008 - Tues May 20 - show me the money
E-Mentoring Program Builds Friendships, Experience

Ohio State Goes High-Tech with Sports Medicine Research

A special invitation to Dublin area entrepreneurs - On May 20th after the Web 2.0 panel discussion we will be convening at 9:30 for some networking activities. The goal will be to get to know other Dublin area entrepreneurs and to get an update from TechColumbus on resources available to you to grow your business. For more details send me a note at

Tuesday evening thoughts - May 13, 2008

Well with Mother's day and a hectic weekend Monday morning muses quickly turned into Tuesday evening thoughts...Happy Belated Mother's day to all you mom's out there...

Last Thursday night I got the privilege of being on the host committee for the TechNight 6.0 fundraiser for Tech Corps Ohio. I've previously written about the good works being done by Tech Corps Ohio but wanted to share with a conversation with bright young man Richard.

I walked into the room and up to a table where Elijah was standing and asked him to share his story. He spoke excited about the being in Tech Corps and shared his story about betting involved with a student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. He had gotten back from the national convention where his student chapter had competed in a national math competition. In their first attempt they placed fifth in the's very cool. He was justifiably very proud of their accomplishment and we as a community should be to. Wouldn't it be something if we as a community celebrated academic achievement the same way we celebrate athletic achievement? Isn't a foundation of building our tech community getting our young people excited about academics and then applying those smarts in different technology fields...?

At the end of our conversation the point that stuck with me was that here was a young man that because of this experience was now focused on a path in a technical career that #1 - he didn't know was even a path #2 - he didn't think that he could get on that path. Look for Elijah in a few years I'm sure we'll here from him again.

A special thanks to Barb Boyd (from Nationwide) for her leadership as the Tech Corps Ohio chair and Kristy Thompson ( Honda ) for being the TCOH\NSBE Jr advisor.

Call to action:
1. Getting our young people involved in technology is a challenge we have in all of our communities. As a father of 4 girls (ages 10 -14) it's not easy for me to find programs to get them involved in that expose them to various technologies. Tech Corps Ohio has a model that can be replicated in any school district it just takes a little time and investment. If you're interested in bringing it to your community contact Lisa Chambers at or 614.583.9211

2. Tech Corps Ohio is looking for summer intern sites. In their words:
We need your help! Please get involved with the City Student TECH CORPS program by providing our students with a 10-week (June 16– August 22, 2008) technology-related work experience. Students will visit your site 30 hours each week and we ask that you provide them with the opportunity to apply the technology and soft skills they have learned in the program. City Student TECH CORPS will supplement the students’ salary at $7/hour. Therefore, there is NO COST to you!

Peace out,

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Getting in on the future.

Recently I was reading the March 8, 2008 issue of the New Yorker. In one of that magazine's lovely cartoons was a group of corporate types sitting around a table. The boss was making a point, forcefully putting his hand down on the table. The caption read, “I want to get us in on the ground floor of the next bandwagon!”

I got to thinking about this in light of what I am often asked by other people: What is the Next Big Thing™ that they should be ready to take on if they want to get ahead? This is a question that I always thought somewhat strange. It seems to me that trying to figure out what everyone else is going to do is much harder and ultimately less useful than figuring out what problems could be solved or what opportunities might be exploited. Or, as Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

So here's a question: What does it mean to invent the future? How different is that from creating technology?

It seems to me that inventing the future will almost inherently include the creation of technology or making novel application of existing technologies, but that won't be enough all by itself. To invent the future, technology must be understood in a context: ultimately, how people benefit from the technology. Here is a warning for engineers enamored of their own brilliance who think themselves above the forces of markets, a need to deal with customers, or to think about how to create a successful business. The most brilliant technology must be put to some use, or it is, by definition, useless.

Early in my career, I was keenly aware of the need for relevance. As we entered the workforce, many of my peers were creating résumés with an “Objective” section that would say something like, “Acquire a position where I can apply the skills I have learned in school and continue my career.” Boring! (I still see that sort of nonsense on the résumés that people throw my way. Enough already!) Of course, the real problem isn't that it's boring as much as it is simply irrelevant—why does that objective mean anything to a hiring manager? Against the advice of people who told me the Right Way to get a job, I proclaimed the audacious “Objective” that was more to do with ensuring that technology was remained a servant of humanity.

This wasn't just a trite remark that was intended to catch the attention of hiring managers; it really was my career objective as I understood it at the time. In the roughly fifteen years that have transpired since that time the objective has proved a worthwhile guide. It's vague enough that I haven't painted myself into a corner but it's also specific enough that it gives me a way to determine if I want to exploit an opportunity before me: will the effort help to make technology a good servant of our species? If not, it's something that I can afford to let go. In any case, I need to understand the context I'm working in: when will the technology be ready for the marketplace? What will the marketplace look like then?

These questions can be hard and scare people off of the idea of getting their products ever created. At some level, considering such questions just gets us to the point where we're trying to guess what everyone else is going to do. I think we're far better off defining the space that we're going to work in—the context that we use—and then to proceed with the development of products and services that provide utility to real people.

So what do you do to ensure that you'll be able to get in on the ground floor of the future?


Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday morning muses - May 5, 2008 - Kudos to HTP - A Columbus success story!!!

Good morning, Sometimes timing is everything. Last Friday I had a lunch meeting set up with Ray Shealy, the CEO of HTP. I was looking forward to catching up with Ray and the progress being made building HTP. Leafing through my emails I saw in Central Ohio TechWeek that HTP was acquired by the healthcare giant McKesson Corporation and the press release had just gone out. This lunch was going to be really very interesting..

For those of you unfamiliar with HTP let me give you a thumbnail sketch:

HTP provides innovative ASP front-end revenue management solutions that enable the reliable, real-time exchange and utilization of healthcare information for providers across the country, improving efficiency, profitability, and patient satisfaction. HTP provides the enabling technology for hospitals to find coverage for those patients who have it, maximize reimbursement from patients who can pay and find financial assistance for patients who can't. It enables patients to also have a view regarding their financial exposure much earlier in the treatment cycle.

HTP was formed in 1996 and is based in Columbus, Ohio with approximately 65 employees. Key leadership personnel are Ray Shealy (CEO), Dennis Swartzlander (Chairman of the Board - co founder), Fred Richards (CTO - co founder).
McKesson's acquisition of HTP "....proves that we CAN locally conceive, incubate, finance and grow tech companies to very successful exits... - Doug Morgan - Calfee, Halter, & Griswold"..

Here's the trio: Ray,Dennis, and Fred

For more details about the acquisition click on this link to the Business First article.

Ray and I had wonderful lunch where he was gracious enough to share his time and thoughts when his phone was ringing off the hook...

On how I met Ray -- a little over three years ago I met Ray through TechColumbus and he was a successful Chicago based entrepreneur who had exited out and was now looking for his next challenge. The great part was that he wanted to do it in Columbus

Ray's first day at HTP - welcome to HTP we've just lost our 2nd biggest customer

Key to the secret sauce
- good people, relentless commitment and execution, good timing

Local HTP customers
- OhioHealth, The Ohio State University Health System

What were the terms of the deal? - HTP is a private company. The financial terms are not for public disclosure.
(my comments - Without disclosing details I think it's fair to say that the over 40 local investors got a fair return on their investment - I bet that there were a fair amount of calls to local banks to see if the wire transfers had hit..No more macaroni and cheese. Let's hope that this increases confidence in local investing )

Will any jobs be added to HTP (now RelayHealth)? - There are no immediate plans to add jobs but we are optimistic about growth..

Advice to entrepreneurs - Follow your heart, be committed, listen to people

Ray's special thanks to ....The Central Ohio Tech Community, Doug Morgan, Will Indest, Steve Clark, Rich Focht, Tracey Allen

...I'd like to recognize Dennis Swartzlander and Fred Richards for having the vision, courage, and commitment to found HTP . They took a big risk and it's paid off. It's gratifying to see the good guys all starts with an entrepreneur(s) who's willing to take a risk.

Congratulations to Ray and the rest of the HTP team for a job well done!! Kudos to TechColumbus, ODOD, and Calfee, Halter & Griswold for their continuing commitment to Central Ohio entrepreneurs...

The bottom line is that we have a great company continuing to grow in Columbus.HTP is an example of how we can make things happen in tech in Columbus..

Peace Out,

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Life in Technology

I hear from people who are not intimately associated with technology that they “couldn't” have certain occupations—computer programmer is perhaps the most frequently cited example—simply because it would be “too boring” to have a job that entailed “sitting in a cubicle and staring at a screen all day.” Sometimes I'll hear the same people wax philosophical about the “romance” of certain other pursuits like writing. The dichotomy presented is, of course, false. As both a programmer and an author, I can say from personal experience that creating software is very much like creating a book.

My choice of the word “create” is deliberate. I use the word because it can serve as a reminder that technology is not something to be contrasted with “creative” pursuits like literature, art, or music. Find me someone who is a success in technology and I will show you someone who has channeled a fundamental creativity to some productive end.

It is true that most of us have long workdays and quite a few workdays every year. And yet we don't spend all of our time in our offices and in front of our machines. Even those of us who spend the greatest amount of time with the technology itself have to spend some time in the management of domestic affairs. Then there is that time that falls somewhere in the middle between the work we live for and the work for our lives: exposing ourselves to ideas and just generally percolating.

This kind of life is quite a bit different from the stereotypes that we've seen and that I mentioned above. But then again, reality typically is a lot more nuanced and interesting than the stereotypes used to classify it.

Thinking back over my own career in the past fifteen years, I was able to identify a few things that I think I would call essential for my life in technology.
  1. Reading. Taking the time to read what other people have written about their work has been tremendously important for me. In particular, I mean formal research literature, technical reports, and other detailed documentation of the process of inquiry and analysis needed to develop technology and to make it work.
  2. Writing. I have found that the simple act of composing my thoughts into a form that others can consume is a powerful ally in helping me to understand clearly exactly what my objectives are and just what it is that I'm able to show. Even when I don't have enough area to cover for formal publication, the writing of a simple technical note or explanation for a program helps me to understand what I have done and what it means in the large.
  3. Discussing. Talking with other people is a great way to explore the possibilities offered by ideas that are new or are being applied in new was. When I worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories at 6200 E. Broad St., a group of people I worked with would take some time a few afternoons every week and discuss ideas over coffee. The coffee was both expensive and not delicious—it came from a machine—but the discussion more than made up for it. Sometimes we discussed utter nonsense (designs for computers that could be powered with readily available water, for example) and other times we discussed things that could inspire experimentation and analysis (such as the ability to predict small but meaningful changes in a complex system by influencing just a few variables inside of it).
  4. Doing. The input is necessary. The output is necessary. The processing of that input and output is necessary. But none of that does any good unless it's actually applied and turned into something that I was being employed to do. Having actually done something, of course, makes a whole new iteration of the process more productive.
How do you keep yourself on-task, living the life that you chose when entering technology? Do you use patterns of activity? What are the elements of your program?