Archive for the ‘Tech in FL’ Category

Writing Software Isn’t Like Building a House

So please stop with the analogy. Writing software is like writing music. Even the most gifted of composers can struggle for days, weeks, or months to get movements to work together. Equating writing software to GOMY9CQSvmjKLxigsfxg_Atticputting PVC pipes together or framing a room is idiotic. I’ve lost track of how many exec’s have said “How hard can it be to get software to do this…?” Well, for starters, go write Hendel’s Messiah from memory. No? Try Beethoven’s Minueto Allegro Molto e Vivace. Because that’s what you’re asking for every time you want a custom piece of software written. Ok, maybe not that hard, but just try writing Chopsticks from memory and you’ll see what I mean. This is not that simple. This is hard, detailed work that requires focus and mastery of the most obscure details. And most of all it requires time. Time to think, to solve, to test (to listen to) again and again until it’s right. If you want it fast then you want it wrong. If you want it right then it takes time.

Tampa Bay is About to Take Off.

Not from all the rain we’re getting. Not from the RNC. What is about to explode is the number of startups getting off the ground. Unfortunately they will look like nothing the area has ever seen before. We’re largely known for medical companies and real estate but a growing core of entrepreneurs are bringing new companies and products to market that don’t even closely resemble these verticals. From BumperCrop and TourWrist to ChannelLauncher (my personal favorite) and Carvoyant,  the landscape is slowly changing. And I say “unfortunately” because the infrastructure (for example, Capital) isn’t in place yet for companies like these. Tampa’s 60/20 Plan as well as Gazelle Lab are working to change that but it will take time. In fact it will take 20 years to change the face of the entrepreneurial community in Tampa Bay. I peg year 1 as 2008, the first year of BarCamp Tampa Bay, so we still have 16 years before we can really call ourselves a successful entrepreneurial community. Many have argued with me that it will only take 5 years to complete the transition. They’re dead wrong. Here’s why. We need three key components to make this happen

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Technology Professionals
  • Angel Investors

We have a small number of entrepreneurs, the risk takers that can distinguish a ‘good idea’ from a ‘good business idea’ and figure out how to build a product and a company around it. Then there are the technologists – developers, architects and sys admins that build great stuff. There’s plenty of them in the area but relatively few are engaged in the community. And then there’s the Angel Investors. This group is virtually non-existant for tech startups looking for  seed stage funding in Tampa Bay. These three groups form a symbiotic relationship when it comes to starting a tech company, they need to work in unison and be in direct contact. Today they are not, not even close. It will take time, trust, missed opportunities and big successes to bring all three together, in particular the Angel component. That’s what will take 20 years to build a thriving entrepreneurial community. So Tampa Bay really is ready to take off and if you’re one of these three groups, you’ve got a huge opportunity to directly impact the direction of the community. Just realize that the goal line is in the year 2028.

TV 4.0

Smart TV 4.0Still struggling with seeing the need for smart tv’s? They’re cool, have lots of features, price points are dropping and screen sizes are increasing. But that’s not enough. I think we’ve got it all wrong – surfing the web or porting Android apps to them isn’t where this should be going. That’s a disconnect for me, people typically use a laptop or a mobile device for those purposes. Instead, think home integration. What do you want to do when you’re watching TV and don’t want to get off the couch? Those are convenience items for consumers, services that we’ll conceptualize and bring to market. What do you order, have shipped to you, and then watch on TV? Those vertical’s are ripe for disruption over smart TV’s. That’s where this should be going. Surfing the web on my TV? No. Sorry.

Inner Workings of DEMO Day

This video was taken leading up to Boulder’s DEMO Day in the summer of 2010. What does it mean to the companies that are participating? As you’ll hear David Cohen state that you’ll base your success on the number of meetings that you get. I don’t think it gets any simpler than that as all the work leading up to DEMO Day is aimed at getting your company funded. Gazelle Lab’s DEMO Day is Nov 17th at Mahaffey Theatre.

Red Hawk Interactive Accepted to Gazelle Lab

Red Hawk InteractiveToday I’m pleased to announce that my company, Red Hawk Interactive, has been accepted to participate in Gazelle Lab. When I left my previous role in April it was to get more involved with the growing entrepreneurial and start-up communities that are developing in and around the Tampa Bay area. I also left to start my own company that focused on building digital products in an area that’s disruptive, fast moving, and growing quickly. I’m not ready to share what that is just yet but we’re making progress on a lot of fronts, although we have hit a few bumps lately. Gazelle Lab itself is part of the TechStars Network, which is dedicated to providing seed funding, mentorship, and a vast array of connections. This is my third start-up and in the previous two the biggest obstacles were finding mentors and funding. For Tampa Bay, seed stage funding is almost non-existent. Gazelle Lab and Tech Stars address exactly these issues and give entrepreneurs the immediate resources necessary to stack the deck in the start-ups favor. The heads-down, balls to the wall, three month program wraps up with DEMO Day at Mahaffey Theatre on November 17th in which the start-ups pitch their products and their companies to prospective investors. Take a look at the TechCrunch article for GazelleLab’s launch and the first six companies (including mine) that are participating.

Now it’s just up to us to execute on it.

BarCamp Tampa Bay 2011

BarCamp Tampa BayBarCamp Tampa Bay is returning on Sept 24th to Kforce in Ybor. This year we’ve gone with just a single day and are limiting the sessions to 30 minutes each. Topics will include Social Media, PHP, Ruby, mobile development and much more. Hopefully we’ll see some sys admins and DBA’s presenting as well this year. If you’re not already following @BarCampTampa you’ll find that we will be sending updates from there as well as through the Facebook account. Shortly we’ll have registration and additional information on the freshly redesigned website (courtesy of @DanDenney) as well as sponsorship information. If you’re a business focused on technology, development, new media or are in any way interested in helping support the entrepreneurial community that is growing around the Tampa Bay area, contact me on twitter, I’d be happy to speak with you about our sponsorship packages. You can also follow #BarCampTampa for updates leading up to and during the event.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept behind BarCamp it’s an ‘un conference’ meaning that the attendees themselves present on subjects that they are experienced and passionate about. Aimed primarily at the technology and creative communities, BarCamps provide an annual event to network and share ideas. All of this shows how much talent is in the Tampa Bay area. If you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, or just curious about how much is really going on in the Tampa area, I encourage you to stop by listen to some of the presentations. I think you’ll be highly impressed.

We hope to see you there!

Entrepreneur: Day 12

Start saying “NO.”

There’s a lot of things I want to be doing and that I want to get involved with.  There are three or four events all coming up that need help and I want to jump in and make sure each of them succeeds. After all, I’ve got all this free time, right? Well, there’s a part of me that says “Shut the hell up and get to work!” I caught my self today getting ready to contributed more time and effort, but when I stepped back and asked “Do I really need to get involved with this?” and “Is this more important to me than what I’m working on?” both answers came back a solid “No.” It’s great to get involved with community projects but you have to take care of your own stuff first. So focus, launch, grow and then get involved with a lot of other projects.

Entrepreneur: Day 0

This morning, after 11 years at Cox Target Media, I resigned my position as Digital Innovation Strategist. After becoming more involved in the entrepreneurial community that’s building in Tampa and St Pete, and after seeing what USFSP’s Gazelle Lab is doing to support innovation and entrepreneurship, I felt that I could no longer sit out and watch everybody else building cool stuff. After taking a close look at my finances I’ve got about 18 months to make something happen. And at 43 I’m still young enough to recover from a catastrophic screw up if it’s turns out that I’m a complete idiot. I’ve got a number of concepts ready to go and two great business partners with a huge amount of technical experience and creativity. So from today on, for the next 18 months, I’ll be posting daily about decision points, planning, progress, successes and failures. If I don’t post then I’m too busy but I’ll try to get at least a sentence in for the day. Obviously I can’t share everything about what we’re working on and who we’re talking to but I will share as much as possible. I’ll also follow up with the results of the decisions I made and whether or not I made a good decision or a bad decision and how and why I’d do it differently in retrospect. Hopefully it will help somebody else in their startup.

Oh, and by the way – focus replaces fear after you decide to jump.

Driving Local Business Through BarCamp

Last year I attended my second BarCamp and was introduced to Sean Carey from HD Interactive. He was working on building augmented reality applications using FLEX and his demonstration consisted of the GE Smart Grid as well as a couple of things his company was working on. I was attracted to the demonstration because it lined up perfectly with what I was working on at the time for print based products. All I needed to do was figure out if we could shrink it down it a 1″x1″ image and see if GE’s app could still render. Sure enough, after a number of reductions through the copier a 1×1 image successfully showed GE’s Smart Grid. Although the render was significantly smaller it still had the detail and the interactivity necessary to push forward. After a couple of presentations with the 1×1 image taped to an existing product I started to get a lot of interest. With the ball rolling I invited Sean Carey in to present what they could do. Their presentation was pretty good and eventually led to a nationwide campaign that launched in March of 2010. If it wasn’t for the connection we made at BarCamp neither Sean nor I would have been able to bring this opportunity forward. He wasn’t pitching a product back then and in so doing was able to land a contract with national exposure.

So, even though “pitching” a product or service is banned, it is still possible to establish business connections in the local community. I think that’s one of the great benefits of BarCamps, local talent making serendipitous connections with local companies. Both benefit greatly and both become stronger because of it. If you have similar experiences, let me know or add it in the comments section.

Speaking at BarCamp

If you’re planning on attending this year and you’re deep in the tech side of things – please take a moment and consider presenting. This might be a stretch for a lot of people but consider this… You’ll get more people to talk to you after your topic then ever. And people may be coming to you for advice if they don’t already.

Speaking at BarCamp isn’t really public speaking. It’s talking. Put it this way, what subjects are you most passionate about in technology or new media? What subjects do you know so well that you can discuss them at length with others? It can be as straightforward as using UIAlertView or you can discuss API changes to Android 2.2 and how they’re affecting your app. Wherever your expertise takes you.

Here’s a quick process to get started…

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What do you know pretty well and can carry on a conversation about?
  3. Find a starting point – in the first 10 seconds tell people exactly why they should be listening.
  4. Craft an ending – summarize what you covered and why it’s important.
  5. Now fill in the middle.

The middle can get a little tricky. If you’re on an advanced subject you’ll have to assume that your audience has a good background in the overall area. If it’s introductory you’ll need to assume that people have ‘heard’ about what you’re discussing and work up from there. You’re going to need to pick which audience you want to attend. Once you’ve got the middle do a test walk through and time yourself. Shoot for thirty minutes – if you’ve got a subject you’re passionate about you’ll probably end up sixty minutes worth of material. Also keep in mind that if this is your first time talking in front of a group then you’ll speak twice as fast as usual. That’s normal, don’t worry about keeping yourself composed as you’ve got enough to focus on. Make your modifications and then walk through it again.

I’d recommend that you take brief notes for your talk, just a sequential list of topics you want to cover, nothing too detailed. Don’t try to memorize your talk, just put the topics on a piece of paper. If you want to use 3″ x 5″ cards to make notes on, make sure you number them, because if you ever drop them…

Do NOT say you’re nervous or a bad presenter, or that this is your first time speaking publicly. Just don’t do it. If any of these things are actually true the BarCamp audience will ignore it as long as you’ve stuck to bullet #1. As long as you’ve met that one requirement then the audience will be on YOUR side. And definitely don’t wait until the last two or three days to do this, you’ll know you’re not prepared and you’ll bail out.

If you want, you can reach me at @sean_davis, I’m more than willing to help you get started. The more presenters we’ve got with great information (not necessarily great presentations) the better the BarCamp experience is.

Return top