Techonomy http://techonomy.com Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:58:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 How Tech Is Enhancing Citizen-Government Relationships in Cities http://techonomy.com/2014/09/tech-enhancing-citizen-city-government-relationships/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/tech-enhancing-citizen-city-government-relationships/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:35:54 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18515 Cities enabled by sensors, mobile technologies, cameras, and big data will be better places to live, according to Harvard Law School Professor Susan Crawford’s new book, “The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance,” coauthored with Harvard Kennedy School’s Stephen Goldsmith. In contrast to the notion that tech will further enable the surveillance state or nefarious uses of data in cities, such as redlining in Detroit and Philadelphia, Crawford’s is an optimistic outlook. At Techonomy Detroit this week, Crawford, who also co-directs Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, discussed with the Brookings Institution's Jennifer Bradley various ways tech is enhancing urban living standards.

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Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution (left) spoke with Harvard's Susan Crawford about engaging city communities in data-smart governance.

Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution (left) spoke with Harvard’s Susan Crawford about engaging city communities in data-smart governance.

Cities enabled by sensors, mobile technologies, cameras, and big data will be better places to live, according to Harvard Law School Professor Susan Crawford’s new book, “The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance,” coauthored with Harvard Kennedy School’s Stephen Goldsmith.

In contrast to the notion that tech will further enable the surveillance state or nefarious uses of data in cities, such as redlining in Detroit and Philadelphia, Crawford’s is an optimistic outlook.

At Techonomy Detroit this week, Crawford, who also co-directs Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, discussed with the Brookings Institution’s Jennifer Bradley various ways tech is enhancing urban living standards. “There were crushing asymmetries of information in the past, in the era of redlining and isolating neighborhoods,” Crawford acknowledged. “The way things are developing these days, technology is democratizing access to data and devices in ways that weren’t true in the past.”

Crawford believes that tech is enabling urban dwellers to virtually march on City Hall or otherwise make their voices heard. “Voices are much leveler than they were in the past,” she said. “And there’s an increased sense of accountability and visibility on the part of government, driven often by technology.”

One example is Buffalo, New York, where maps layered with 311 and 911 data are shared with the public to pinpoint neighborhoods with problems. Viewing a shared screen, Crawford said, “lowers emotional temperatures,” and gets citizens and government to cooperate to target scarce resources to neighborhoods most in need.

In the city of Jun, Spain, said Crawford, Twitter handles are branded on the town’s police officers’ uniforms. Citizens are invited to direct-Tweet the mayor’s office, and the office responds. Citizens are also able to reserve a public room in City Hall via Twitter: “the room unlocks itself in response to a Tweet when you arrive,” noted Crawford.

Crawford said mayors are essential to the success of the responsive city. She credits tech-savvy mayors with “making sure that the resources are made available for people to use technology to make their lives better,” and calls the trend “technically able citizenry empowered by a strong mayor.”

Crawford pointed to Chicago as another city that “sees itself as a platform” and is making significant advances using technology to open up the city. Not only did Chicago make all its crime data available online, but it is now sharing an open data-smart platform to enable other cities to follow its lead. Crawford said the city leadership is using predictive analytics to target city services, such as inspections. A new program called the Array of Things uses sensors placed around the central business district, the Loop, to measure and openly share data on noise, humidity, and light. Based on community input, the city can swap out sensors to measure other inputs. “It’s the first time we’re seeing a city trying to measure itself for ways that are useful for research and citizens in a completely transparent fashion,” Crawford said.

Bradley wonders if effective use of “smart cities” technology “demands smart citizens” who have the time and know-how to interact with and understand the value of the data. “There’s a limit to the amount of time and energy we can give to civic engagement,” she noted.

But Crawford, who prefers the term “responsive” city or citizen to “smart” city, said the responsive city is an easier place to engage as a citizen. “Responsiveness online can require just shards of attention. A person can insert their self if they want to with very little effort,” she said. “You can feel a sense of agency and autonomy and impact that’s very difficult in a world without screens.”

Crawford noted that technologies enable cities to increase the number of touch points they have with citizens, and that a city’s digital presence in citizens’ lives enables richer relationships. Rather than seeing the city as something alien to which we pay taxes and that arrests us, digital interaction can enhance the participatory democratic nature of life and the reciprocal nature of relationships between cities and citizens, she said.

Do digital relationships compromise physical individual ones between citizens and cities, such as traditional organizing and gathering, or the sense of community? Bradley asked.

Crawford said no: Deep personalization as well as genuine collective action are possible using technology. “We don’t lose anything, we’re amplifying our abilities along both of those vectors. You can talk to your precinct captain using Twitter, but you can also finally see your entire city in a way that’s difficult without digital technology.”

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Detroit CIO Beth Niblock Interviews Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter and Square http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-cio-beth-niblock-interviews-jack-dorsey-founder-twitter-square/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-cio-beth-niblock-interviews-jack-dorsey-founder-twitter-square/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:34:36 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18507 At our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference, Beth Niblock, Detroit's first CIO, interviewed Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square about how tech tools can help small merchants thrive in communities like Detroit.

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At our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference, Beth Niblock, Detroit’s first CIO, interviewed Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square about how tech tools can help small merchants thrive in communities like Detroit.

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Jack Dorsey Believes in Profit: For Merchants, Cities, and Square http://techonomy.com/2014/09/jack-dorsey/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/jack-dorsey/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:40:51 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18495 Appearing on the Techonomy Detroit stage for the third year, Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey shared with Detroit CIO Beth Niblock his vision for how technology, and in particular the evolution of Square, is helping the commerce ecosystem and could help cities like Detroit. Dorsey and Niblock’s conversation followed a talk by author Andrew Keen in which the techno-polemicist cautioned the audience that tech companies operate strictly in the interest of their own profits, not to help society. Dorsey acknowledged Square’s profit motive, but pointed out that Square’s revenues depend on the success of its customers, so the company is highly invested in helping merchants succeed.

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20140916_TechonomyDetroit-1542Appearing on the Techonomy Detroit stage for the third year, Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey shared with Detroit CIO Beth Niblock his vision for how technology, and in particular the evolution of Square, is helping the commerce ecosystem, and could help cities like Detroit.

Dorsey and Niblock’s conversation followed a talk by author Andrew Keen in which the techno-polemicist cautioned the audience that tech companies operate strictly in the interest of their own profits, not to help society. Dorsey acknowledged Square’s profit motive, but pointed out that Square’s revenues depend on the success of its customers, so the company is highly invested in helping merchants succeed.

No matter what size, there are three things every business needs, Dorsey says: “Access to capital, new customers, and the tools to retain them.” He calls “criminal” the systems that have traditionally made it difficult for merchants to accept credit cards from customers and delayed access to sales revenues. Square, he says, is driven to make it easier for businesses to get more customers and faster access.

Square’s initial contribution to commerce was its small mobile hardware that let merchants accept credit cards anywhere, he says. “When we started out, we created a reader that enabled people to accept credit cards. It was about getting new customers and making every sale. Buyers want to use cards everywhere because they’re convenient, but sellers didn’t have tools to accept them.”

Dorsey was interviewed by Detroit CIO Beth Niblock.

Dorsey was interviewed by Detroit CIO Beth Niblock.

But the company also created a system that put funds from payments into the business account the next day, instead of the next week, and then built a register system around the hardware to enable merchants to better retain customers.

Dorsey is careful to differentiate between simple payments and more complex commerce, which he says Square is enabling: Beyond the exchange of goods for cash, “commerce is the interaction between the buyer and seller. Humans were trading goods and services before we were trading stories.” And while storytelling, or communication, has become freer over time, commerce has become more complicated. Says Dorsey, “Our mission is to make commerce as free as communication.”

Dorsey says one major benefit of new commerce technologies is that they give small businesses and teams the freedom to stay small while interacting in a global marketplace. “A team of six can build an app that impacts the entire world,” he says.

He also described how Square’s new Square Capital tool is helping merchants grow their businesses with cash advances. “To get a typical business loan takes a lot of collateral and insurance.” Square doesn’t need that. He explains: “We have a deep understanding of our sellers because they’re running their accounting on our service. So we can send them an email with confidence to say, ‘We’d like to advance you some capital. Here’s how much it will cost. Touch this button.’”

Earlier in his Detroit visit, Dorsey stopped in at Square Capital customer Human, a clothing boutique on Cass Avenue. Human accessed a low-interest cash advance from Square to buy mannequins for clothing photo shoots designed to enhance the store’s online sales. And hair salons have taken Square advances to buy more chairs in order to serve more customers, he says.

“The money is paid back by selling—by running your business,” Dorsey explains. “With every swipe, they’re paying that advance back automatically. If they grow their business, we grow too,” he says. “We need capital and revenue to invest back in our business. You need it to exist. All our customers need it to serve their customers.”

Asked whether Square, with its focus on credit card commerce, could have the effect of excluding buyers in a market like Detroit, where access to credit or debit cards is not universal, he says, “We should enable sellers to accept checks, cash, credit and prepaid cards, Apple pay, and Bitcoin. As long as you’re making that sale you’re growing the economy and the buyer gets what they want.”

Contrary to Andrew Keen’s characterization of tech company CEOs, Dorsey says he wants to help people. “We intend to use technologies to have an impact on the world. Great tools get used and save time for people and allow us to focus on things that are more meaningful to us. Bad tools take attention and time away.”

Niblock said she and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan are “committed to transparency,” and that “Detroit is trying to do business differently.” She agreed with Dorsey that great tech tools can contribute to running government and balancing public and private sector interests more efficiently.

Dorsey said commerce technologies like Square and social technologies like Twitter can deliver data and feedback to city leaders in a way that lets them make better decisions. “The more we surface what’s happening in a city in real time, we can make better decisions about what the city needs and build a stronger economy and civic society.”

Asked by Niblock, “What new ideas have caught your imagination?” Dorsey responded, “The best technology reminds us that we have everything we need and encourages more human interaction. A great technology gives time back to people so they can focus on what’s meaningful.”

Dorsey is not a fan of “building tech for tech’s sake,” but says, “If we build to create efficiencies, that’s what I love to see. Taking something time consuming and bringing it down to a second or a minute.”

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Was It Just a Dream? http://techonomy.com/2014/09/just-dream/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/just-dream/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:10:03 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18513 The American Dream—that hard work could lead anyone to prosperity, success and upward mobility—feels increasingly irrelevant for a growing and frighteningly large group of Americans. What will people do to attain economic and social security? Will the middle class survive? What new policies and strategies could we devise to help keep the American Dream alive? Carol Goss of Harvard's Advanced Leadership Initiative, Indiegogo's Danae Ringelmann, Elizabeth Shuler of the AFL-CIO, and Philip Zelikow of the Markle Foundation tackled these and other questions in a discussion moderated by David Kirkpatrick that kicked off our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference.

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The American Dream—that hard work could lead anyone to prosperity, success and upward mobility—feels increasingly irrelevant for a growing and frighteningly large group of Americans. What will people do to attain economic and social security? Will the middle class survive? What new policies and strategies could we devise to help keep the American Dream alive?

Carol Goss of Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, Indiegogo’s Danae Ringelmann, Elizabeth Shuler of the AFL-CIO, and Philip Zelikow of the Markle Foundation tackled these and other questions in a discussion moderated by David Kirkpatrick that kicked off our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference.

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The Internet Is Not the Answer http://techonomy.com/2014/09/internet-answer/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/internet-answer/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:00:49 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18510 Andrew Keen, Internet entrepreneur and author of several books about technology including "Digital Vergito" and, most recently, "The Internet Is Not the Answer," spoke at our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference about his belief that tech companies seek profits under the misleading guise of doing social good.

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Andrew Keen, Internet entrepreneur and author of several books about technology including “Digital Vergito” and, most recently, “The Internet Is Not the Answer,” spoke at our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference about his belief that tech companies seek profits under the misleading guise of doing social good.

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Complex-Cities: The View from Mexico City http://techonomy.com/2014/09/complex-cities-view-mexico-city/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/complex-cities-view-mexico-city/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:30:50 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18522 “City labs,” set up explicitly to advance progress, sharing and a digitally-enhanced economy, are emerging around the world. Defined by cross-sector collaboration, they are harnessing creativity, innovation, civic entrepreneurship and tech to re-build, re-vitalize and re-think solutions to crucial urban issues. At our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference, Gabriella Gómez-Mont spoke about her efforts to foster civic engagement in Mexico City in an interview with Justin Fox of the Harvard Business Review.

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“City labs,” set up explicitly to advance progress, sharing and a digitally-enhanced economy, are emerging around the world. Defined by cross-sector collaboration, they are harnessing creativity, innovation, civic entrepreneurship and tech to re-build, re-vitalize and re-think solutions to crucial urban issues.  At our Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference, Gabriella Gómez-Mont spoke about her efforts to foster civic engagement in Mexico City in an interview with Justin Fox of the Harvard Business Review.

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Why Institutions Need to Wake Up to a New American Dream http://techonomy.com/2014/09/institutions-need-wake-new-american-dream/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/institutions-need-wake-new-american-dream/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:00:42 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18488 Philip Zelikow says we’re on the cusp of a change “comparable to 1880 or 1890 when the economy was about to fundamentally transform. This should be a really bright era.” Yet Gallup polls show that Americans are more pessimistic about the future than ever. And even a Techonomy panel discussion offered a less-than-optimistic view of the future for the middle class.

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(From left) David Kirkpatrick, Carol Goss, Danae Ringelmann, Elizabeth Shuler, and Philip Zelikow

(From left) David Kirkpatrick, Carol Goss, Danae Ringelmann, Elizabeth Shuler, and Philip Zelikow

The United States is in the early phase of a new era that will bring Industrial-Revolution-scale transformation to the economy, says Philip Zelikow, a leader of the Markle Initiative for America’s Economic Future in a Networked World and a University of Virginia history professor.

We’re on the cusp of a change “comparable to 1880 or 1890 when the economy was about to fundamentally transform,” he says. “This should be a really bright era.”

Yet, Gallup polls show that Americans are more pessimistic about the future than ever. And even this Techonomy Detroit discussion offered a less-than-optimistic view of the future for the middle class.

Kicking off Techonomy Detroit today with a conversation about the American Dream entitled “Was It Just a Dream?” David Kirkpatrick pointed out that, although the Dow Jones Industrial Average has far surpassed its 2007 high of 14,000, national unemployment rates are higher today than they were 7 years ago, and the average price of a college tuition has increased by 80 percent in a decade. The Techonomy CEO asked Zelikow and three other panelists—Carol Goss, a longtime Detroit community activist and a fellow with the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University; Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo; and AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Elizabeth Shuler—what hope the average American still has for economic and social security? And what about the average resident of Detroit, where unemployment has jumped from 6.9 percent in 2007 to nearly 17 percent today?

To be sure, there’s little variation among definitions of the American dream: “That hard work could lead anyone to prosperity, success, and upward mobility” (Kirkpatrick); that each generation achieves more than the last (Goss); that there are “abundant possibilities and second chances” (Zelikow).

Most agree that accessible technologies have created a climate that should be conducive to achieving that dream. Zelikow notes: “The barriers to starting up and growing a business have never been lower … And it has never been easier to get the personal development you need—the education and training in almost any subject—than it is right now.”

Innovative products of the new economy, such as Indiegogo, are also democratizing access to ideas, the tools of invention, and financing. “We use the Internet to blow up the gatekeeping system to put control in the hands of people to fund” ideas they like, says Ringelmann, who started Indiegogo because she was “pissed off at how unfair financing was.”

"Our institutions are stuck in the past," says Philip Zelkow of the Markle Foundation.

“Our institutions are stuck in the past,” says Philip Zelkow of the Markle Foundation.

But Zelikow points to one reason many Americans remain underwhelmed by the opportunities that techonomists tout: “Our institutions are stuck in the past,” he says. “The conversations and decisions in Washington are mostly irrelevant to what the future will look like, to the way we need to reinvent our financial and education systems. The issues that are really going to shape the new economy will not be about whether to change interest rates by 10 points,” he says.

What’s more, Zelikow says, the old structures that made Americans feel secure are eroding. For instance, jobs with benefits were created to provide security in the industrial era. “In the new networked economy, what are the new structures we need to provide? They might be different but not inferior,” he says. “How do we build a future in which America can thrive in the 21st century? That’s a conversation we need to foster more broadly for the country as a whole.”

But Shuler, whose organization comprises 57 unions and 12 million workers, notes that entrepreneurs in a networked economy still need customers to buy their products. “Henry Ford recognized he needed skilled workers who could make enough to buy the cars they were manufacturing,” she says. “As we move forward in the changing economy, do we want to abandon the value set that makes us American: fairness, equality, rewarding a hard day’s work with a decent level of pay?”

Carol Goss of the Advanced Leadership Initiative program at Harvard University says

Carol Goss of the Advanced Leadership Initiative program at Harvard University believes students must learn that tech and entrepreneurship are essential to making a living.

Goss pointed to third generations of children growing up in communities with failing schools, graduating without exposure to entrepreneurship or the skill sets needed for jobs in the technology sector. “A significant number of black and brown children will not be able to participate,” Goss says. “We have to be intentional about making connections between schools and work and apprenticeship and create a level playing field to get all young people ready for this exciting time.” She advocates for “helping kids understand that using technology for entrepreneurship is important part of making a living for yourself.”

Ringelmann says the answer is to shift mindsets and values. “Those won’t come from policy,” she says. “We all need to recognize there is an entrepreneur inside of us. Our education system needs to change in that it does not recognize that.” She’s a proponent of an “empowerment” rather than “protectionst” approach to government and family life for giving people the tools and ingredients to create their own success.

Zelikow urges technology-minded businesses to “invest in policies that will broaden participation—make it easier and more flexible for people to get training at any point in their lives … and push to leverage technology to up-skill rather than de-skill people.”

For instance, he points to the way Starbucks is investing in “upskilling” its employees, or to the way a home health care aide of a pharmacy clerk could be upskilled with technology such as Google Glass to communicate with doctors and nurses. “If you leverage technology to empower people at the front lines, you will have a stronger business with employees with higher skills.”

While the panel’s optimism balanced its pessimism, it made clear that achieving prosperity, success, and upward mobility will be possible only if American institutions—businesses, governments, educational systems—wake up to a new kind of American dream.

Read Philip Zelikow’s article for Techonomy about rebuilding the American dream.

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Techonomy Detroit 2014: Full Video http://techonomy.com/2014/09/techonomy-detroit-2014-live/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/techonomy-detroit-2014-live/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:30:15 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18372 Techonomy Detroit brings together leaders and thinkers from business, technology, government, and academia to better understand how to move the U.S., and the world, into an urbanized, technologized, inclusive future. Detroit’s travails symbolize issues faced by many American cities and to some extent the entire country. But this is also a city energetically seeking to revive itself. The birthplace of assembly-line manufacturing and technologized transportation, Detroit was once the innovation engine of the U.S. economy. There is no better place for a conversation on how our national priorities must change in a technologized economy.

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On September 16th, Techonomy returned to Detroit for our third annual Techonomy Detroit conference. We continued the series of conversations we began at our first Techonomy Detroit in 2012 on how technology can boost U.S. economic growth, job creation and urban revival. Techonomy Detroit brings together leaders and thinkers from business, technology, government and academia to better understand how to move the U.S., and the world, into an urbanized, technologized, inclusive future. Detroit’s travails symbolize issues faced by many American cities and to some extent the entire country. But this is also a city energetically seeking to revive itself. The birthplace of assembly-line manufacturing and technologized transportation, Detroit was once the innovation engine of the U.S. economy. There is no better place for a conversation on how our national priorities must change in a technologized economy. And as we learned the past two years, the Detroit community is committed to creative problem solving in ways few outsiders can appreciate. Extraordinary energies and opportunities are being unleashed. For a complete conference overview, click here.

8:30 – 8:40AM   Welcome

Jocelyn Benson, Dean, Wayne State University Law School

David Kirkpatrick, CEO and Chief Techonomist, Techonomy Media

8:40 – 9:25AM   Was It Just a Dream?

The American Dream—that hard work could lead anyone to prosperity, success and upward mobility—feels increasingly irrelevant for a growing and frighteningly large group of Americans. What will people do to attain economic and social security? Will the middle class survive? What new policies and strategies could we devise to help keep the American Dream alive?

Speakers: Carol Goss, Fellow, Advanced Leadership Initiative, Harvard University; Former President and CEO, The Skillman Foundation

Danae Ringelmann, Founder and Chief Development Officer, Indiegogo

Elizabeth Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO

Philip Zelikow, White Burkett Miller Professor of History, University of Virginia; Visiting Managing Director, Markle Foundation

Moderator: David Kirkpatrick, CEO and Chief Techonomist, Techonomy Media

9:25 – 9:45AM  Complex-Cities: The View from Mexico City

“City labs,” set up explicitly to advance progress, sharing and a digitally-enhanced economy, are emerging around the world. Defined by cross-sector collaboration, they are harnessing creativity, innovation, civic entrepreneurship and tech to re-build, re-vitalize and re-think solutions to crucial urban issues.

A conversation with Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Director, City Laboratory of Mexico City

Interviewer: Justin Fox, Executive Editor, New York, Harvard Business Review

9:45 – 9:55AM  Building the Brand

Building a brand in today’s hyper-connected, consumer-driven era means two things. First, more then ever before, brands need to own their POV and stay focused. Second, your company has the ability to rise, commute, work, dine, drink and go to bed with your customer; never before has this intimacy been possible. What you do with that relationship determines success or failure. We’ll look at two examples and see what it takes.

A presentation by Constance DeCherney, Head of the iCrossing Collaboratory, iCrossing

9:55 – 10:40AM  Open Data Opens Opportunity

The digitization of everything and access to vast databases of information means we can measure more of the world. It also means we can change what we measure—about city functions, services and the economy. New opportunities are emerging to cultivate innovation, build new services and unlock economic value. Agencies across the country are opening doors to a data treasure trove hidden for years. What business opportunities are unlocked and how will this speed progress for cities and citizens?

Speakers: Alex Alsup, Chief Product Officer, LOVELAND Technologies

David Behen, Chief Information Officer, State of Michigan; Director, Department of Technology, Management and Budget

Joel Gurin, Senior Advisor, The Governance Lab, New York University

Tony Scott, Chief Information Officer, VMware Inc.

Moderator: Michael Chui,Partner, McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Company

10:40 – 11:00AM Break

11:00 – 11:40AM  Hiking, Biking & Responsive Transit

From bike lanes to the hyper-loop, how do you build an intelligent urban transit infrastructure that offers efficient mobility? How do we knit together the various modes of transit to form robust, sustainable transportation systems that serve the city and its citizens?

Speakers: Don Butler, Executive Director, Connected Vehicles and Services, Ford

Jeff Olson, Principal, Alta Planning + Design

Shiva Shivakumar, CEO and Co-founder, Urban Engines

Zia Yusuf, President and CEO, Streetline, Inc.

Moderator:Greg Lindsay, Senior Fellow, World Policy Institute; Contributing Writer, Fast Company

11:40 – 11:45AM       Debut of the “Love My City” Contest-Winning Video

Presented in partnership with Ford

Introduced by Reid Genauer, Chief Marketing Officer, Magisto    

11:45AM – 12:25PM    The Economics of Sharing

Airbnb, DogVacay, Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit. A host of new platforms are transforming the economics of sharing. But what does their rapid spread mean for a city and its citizens? Is the sharing economy the future of employment, compensation and exchange of value? As the trend reorients business, social and cultural norms, how can we ensure that cities and citizens become beneficiaries?

Speakers: Stacy Brown-Philpot, Chief Operating Officer, TaskRabbit

April Rinne, Sharing Economy | Shareable Cities Expert; Head of the Sharing Economy Working Group, World Economic Forum

Arun Sundararajan, Professor and NEC Faculty Fellow | NYU Stern School of Business, NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress

Moderator:Andrew McLaughlin, Partner, betaworks; CEO, digg & Instapaper

12:25 – 12:35PM The Internet Is Not the Answer

A presentation by Andrew Keen, Author, The Internet Is Not the Answer; Host, “Keen On,” TechCrunch

12:35 – 1:00PM  Detroit CIO Beth Niblock interviews Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter and Square

1:00 – 2:00PM  Lunch Hosted by Ford

McGregor Memorial Conference Center

2:00 – 2:15PM  Switch Break 

2:15 – 3:15PM  The Digital Divide: How Can the Tech Industry Become More Inclusive?

As companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple release their hiring data figures, the Twitter-verse explodes with commentary on the lack of diversity in the industry. This is not a new problem, but there should be new solutions. How can tech and American entrepreneurship be more inclusive?

Speakers: Brian Forde, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Chris Genteel, Head of Diversity Markets, Google

Laura Mather, Founder and CEO, Unitive

Marlin Page, Founder, Sisters Code

Danae Ringelmann, Founder and Chief Development Officer, Indiegogo

Moderator:Andrew McLaughlin, Partner, betaworks; CEO, digg & Instapaper

3:15 – 3:30PM  Switch Break 

3:30 – 3:35PM   Welcome Back!

David Kirkpatrick, CEO and Chief Techonomist, Techonomy Media

3:35 – 4:00PM       Establishing a Firm Foundation

What has philanthropy achieved in Detroit and America’s cities, and where will it go next? Join the heads of the Case and Kresge Foundations for a conversation on the role of foundations in the revival of urban life. How do they see their role in bolstering partnerships and collaboration in the communities they serve? How do they enable a new notion of civics, and civic leaders driven by the use of tech for social good?

Speakers: Jean Case, Chief Executive Officer, Case Foundation

Rip Rapson, President and CEO, The Kresge Foundation

Interviewer: Nolan Finley, Editorial Page Editor and Columnist, The Detroit News

4:00 – 4:15PM  A presentation on Tech and the Economy by Albert Wenger, Partner, Union Square Ventures

4:15 – 4:40PM  The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance

What is citizenship in the digital age? Policy experts Susan Crawford of Harvard University and Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution discuss themes from Crawford’s new book about civic engagement, innovation and the role of tech and the Internet for Detroit and other major cities.

4:40 – 5:05PM  Can We Train America to Train Its Workers?

By 2022 the U.S. is projected to need 1.4 million new programmers, but at current rates only 400,000 IT graduates will emerge to fill them. How America tackles this disparity will help determine its ongoing global competitiveness and the economic success of all Americans. Codeacademy has developed innovative training tools, and the White House is turning to this issue with great urgency.

A conversation with Zach Sims, Co-founder and CEO, Codecademy, & Brian Forde, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Interviewer: David Kirkpatrick, CEO and Chief Techonomist, Techonomy Media

5:05 – 5:10PM  Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition Semi-Finalist Announcement

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition convenes top, early-stage technology companies with investors from across Michigan and North America and awards $500,000 to the top tech or service company.

5:10 – 5:50PM  Startups, Cities and Sustaining Innovation

The ideas are flowing fast, as is the money. Young (and old) the world over are increasingly drawn to entrepreneurship, and inventive tech solutions are emerging everywhere. Is “Silicon Valley” a spirit rather than a place? What makes a city attractive for company incubation? Is this energy likely to continue, or will cities like Detroit have trouble sustaining it? Will the successful companies of the future stay put or move elsewhere?

Speakers: Jill Ford, Special Advisor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Angel Investor

Josh Linkner, CEO and Managing Partner, Detroit Venture Partners

Andy White, Partner, VegasTechFund

Andrew Yang, Founder and CEO, Venture for America

Moderator: Andrew Keen, Author, The Internet Is Not the Answer; Host, “Keen On,” TechCrunch

5:50 – 5:55PM  Closing Remarks

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How Three Idealists Became Ed-Tech Entrepreneurs http://techonomy.com/2014/09/three-idealists-became-ed-tech-entrepreneurs/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/three-idealists-became-ed-tech-entrepreneurs/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:27:27 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18461 We’ll be the first to admit it: we are an unlikely trio of entrepreneurs. Two of us are black men who grew up in Detroit, left for college, and returned to the city. Two of us are young adults who dropped out of college due to a lack of guidance. Two of us are college advisors devoted to pushing opportunities to high school students and pushing students out of the hood. Together, we are all advocates of urban youth who share a vision and a drive.

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Evolve Team Photo

Evolve Lifestyle Group founders (from left) Justin Cook, Justine Sheu, and Myles Morgan

By Myles Morgan and Justine Sheu

Evolve Lifestyle Group is a collective of social entrepreneurs who create disruptive solutions to urban problems. Their projects include PRO:UP, a web and mobile app that connects youth, educators and opportunity providers through a social platform; and EnACT Your Future, Inc., an ACT prep and college advising service designed to meet the needs of urban youth.

We’ll be the first to admit it: we are an unlikely trio of entrepreneurs. Two of us are black men who grew up in Detroit, left for college, and returned to the city. Two of us are young adults who dropped out of college due to a lack of guidance. Two of us are college advisors devoted to pushing opportunities to high school students and pushing students out of the hood. Together, we are all advocates of urban youth who share a vision and a drive. All of us are angry at the state of education and inspired by the experiences of disempowered people. All of us are aspiring to change the culture in positive ways. All of us believe that true social change emerges from self-refinement. And by some synchronistic happenstance, the forces of the universe drew us together to envision a better future.

Frustration = Inspiration

Before we knew anything about the world of business, we started with an idea. Truly, we were inspired by the stories of our students. We were all too familiar with the countless struggles they faced, with the overwhelming inadequacy of the educational system, and with the knowledge that opportunities existed that could change our students’ lives that they just didn’t know about. For each student we connected to a life-changing opportunity, there were hundreds more who fell through the cracks, who remained convinced that their local reality was the only one that existed. And the painful fact we faced was one that most counselors share: We had too many students and too many responsibilities to be able to connect everyone to a meaningful opportunity.

From our own frustrations as college advisors, the idea for our mobile app, Evolve Lifestyle Group, was born. What if there was a way to connect local youth to all the opportunities that exist in city—enrichment programs, internships, mentors—in an efficient and personalized channel? What if we could build an app to collect and deliver this information to every student? What if, using technology, we could create an infrastructure to maximize the collective impact of all the organizations in the city? With nothing more than a sprawling-but-shared vision, we submitted our very first business model to the 2014 DTX Launch Detroit summer accelerator program at TechTown Detroit—and were accepted.

“Hope to fail, and fail fast.”

Officially, DTX Launch Detroit is a 10-week summer accelerator for college students and recent graduates aspiring to launch a technology startup. But for us, it was the most grueling, rewarding and life-changing grind we’ve experienced in our quarter-century of existence. Sitting in a room full of peers on the first day, we listened to each of our coaches introduce themselves and offer Tweet-sized bites of advice. One line struck us most: “Hope to fail, and fail fast.”

The sudden static of awkward shuffling did not go unnoticed. What did they mean by fail fast? Only later did we realize that our coaches were instilling us with the mindset of using failure to sharpen ourselves and our ideas. (In business-speak: to validate our business models.) This is a lesson we do not often share with youth, but it is central to our team values and a necessity for entrepreneurs: Evolve everyday through failure. Over the next 10 weeks, we learned the meaning of failing fast by talking to over 100 potential customers, from students to counselors to administrators, about their pains and experiences. Our assumptions were challenged and often overturned. Each time we thought we had cracked the code, we would present our new model to our coaches and peers, only to realize we had to go back to the drawing board.

Along the way, we endured candid criticism, relentlessly refined our business model, and learned by doing. The many connections we made within the community and with our peers renewed our motivation. Our tireless coaches supported, advised, and pushed us every step of the way, even when it (often) meant Slack messaging about our presentation at 11 p.m. Three months down the line, we have an evolving business model, a basic prototype, and a framework for identifying problems and designing solutions. Most humbling of all, we left our final showcase with the George Orley Social Impact Award and an amazingly supportive network of educators, entrepreneurs and mentors. In just 10 weeks, the Detroit Technology Exchange program gave us the much-needed energy, framework and focus to bring our idea to life.

“A single experience can change the entire trajectory of a person’s life.”

As we prepare to enter incubation, TechTown has continued to connect us with the resources we need to realize our vision. We often tell our students that exposure is everything—a single experience can change the entire trajectory of a person’s life. DTX Launch Detroit has provided our new company with that very experience. It has transformed us from idealists with a vision to social entrepreneurs with a mission. Through our app, we intend to connect countless others with the experiences they need to do the same. After all, this is part of the ethos of Detroit. We recognize that a true revitalization of the city means connecting all residents to the resources and opportunities that are emerging. It may be a long time coming, but it all starts with a small ecosystem of people working together to evolve themselves and evolve Detroit.

DTX, the Detroit Technology Exchange, is a programmatic partnership between TechTown DetroitBizdomInvest Detroit and the Detroit Creative Corridor Center. It is supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Strategic Fund and the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan. DTX is a sponsor of the Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference.

partner-insights

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Detroit Is Already a City of Drones http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-already-city-drones/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-already-city-drones/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:51:32 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18457 Marc Andreessen—cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms—recently penned an article for Politico entitled “Turn Detroit into Drone Valley.” In short, the focus of the article centered around the desire to develop innovation clusters in cities across the globe. It’s a recurrent theme throughout organizations like Techonomy: how to foster a spirit of innovation and embrace technological innovation, all while building upon the legacy strengths of a specific city or region.

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Detroit Aircraft founder John Rimanelli

Detroit Aircraft founder John Rimanelli

Marc Andreessen—cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms—recently penned an article for Politico entitled “Turn Detroit into Drone Valley.”

In short, the focus of the article centered around the desire to develop innovation clusters in cities across the globe. It’s a recurrent theme throughout organizations like Techonomy: how to foster a spirit of innovation and embrace technological innovation, all while building upon the legacy strengths of a specific city or region.

Truly, Andreessen’s article was less about Detroit specifically, and more about recognizing the link between innovations in technology and economic growth and opportunity. However, for individuals like Jon Rimanelli—founder of drone manufacturer Detroit Aircraft—it was a reaffirmation of his efforts to make Detroit a global hub for aircraft research and innovation.

Over the past two years, Rimanelli has created an R&D lab on the outskirts of Detroit, striking a deal to refurbish the city’s run-down airport, and turning the 19,000-square-foot main terminal—which ceased commercial flights in 2000—into a modernized research facility, complete with manufacturing lines.

According to Rimanelli, Unmanned aerial vehicles (or UAVs) are expected to be an $87 billion market globally by the end of the decade, and with his company Detroit is well positioned to capitalize on the demand.

“We are setting up distribution globally, and at a staggering pace,” says Rimanelli. “We recently traveled to Africa to discuss applications for drones in precision agriculture and increasing farm crop yields. We’ve received interest from individuals in South America looking for better solutions for infrastructure inspections. There’s strong interest across the board in using the UAVs for threat detection and anti-terrorist efforts. Most recently, a major oil company approached us seeking ways that the technology could address hazardous materials cleanup.”

The surge in demand for UAVs has catapulted sales from $96,000 in 2013 to an estimated $1 million for 2014. A significant portion of these sales come from a joint venture with defense contractor Lockheed Martin—a formal partnership in May set up Detroit Aircraft to distribute, manufacture, and service the Indago UAV, a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle targeted for use in law enforcement, agriculture, energy, and rail applications.

A recent acquisition of A3Electronix, a Livonia, Mich.-based electronics manufacturer, brings the majority of their manufacturing needs in-house, including autopilot systems and engine controllers, and will bring Detroit Aircraft’s employee count up to approximately 15 employees by the end of October.

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Detroit Needs Talented People … and It’s Getting Them http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-needs-talented-people-getting/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-needs-talented-people-getting/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18442 Detroit’s unique challenges have given rise to bold policy prescriptions and created a hotbed of opportunities. In 2012, a dozen smart, enterprising recent college graduates moved to Detroit. They were Venture For America Fellows, assigned to local startups to gain experience and contribute energy to Detroit's revival.

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We’ve asked speakers at our upcoming Techonomy Detroit conference to share perspectives on topics they will discuss at the event relating to U.S. economic growth, jobs, and urban renewal. (To register for the conference, click here.)

Thanks in part to Venture for America, downtown Detroit has become a hotbed of startup culture. (Image via Shutterstock)

Thanks in part to Venture for America, downtown Detroit has become a hotbed of startup culture. (Image via Shutterstock)

Detroit’s unique challenges have given rise to bold policy prescriptions and created a hotbed of opportunities. Marc Andreessen recently suggested making drones legal to help turn the city into a policy and industrial innovation zone. Michael Bloomberg proposed providing a direct path to U.S. citizenship for immigrants who migrate to Detroit and contribute to the community for seven years. And a plan to raze and remove the city’s 40,000 abandoned buildings has gained considerable support and momentum, not to mention $450 million funding. It could help start making Detroit look like a verdant park in coming years.

Last year, I asked an audience in San Francisco, “What would happen if everyone in the Bay Area were to move to Detroit?” Think about that for a second. After a bit of back and forth, we agreed that there would be a rush of startup activity out of the Motor City, including personal warming devices and other innovations. Even if the people of Silicon Valley weren’t allowed to bring money with them, investors would follow, and 8 Mile would become the new Sand Hill Road almost overnight.

Human and intellectual capital drive innovation more than any other thing.

In 2012, a dozen smart, enterprising recent college graduates moved to Detroit. They were Venture For America Fellows, assigned to local startups to gain experience and contribute energy to Detroit’s revival. Three of them—Tim Dingman, Scott Lowe, and Max Nussenbaum—joined with former marine Sean Jackson, a 2013 VFA Fellow, to buy a foreclosed seven-bedroom mansion in Midtown for $9,200. Calling the house Rebirth Realty, they crowdfunded an additional $10,000 to renovate it themselves. By age 25, Tim, Scott, and Max discovered that being a landlord was fraught with issues. So they co-founded a software company, Castle, to provide services to small landlords, raised $30,000 in early investment, and are about to launch their first mobile product.

Another of the graduates, Brian Rudolph, a fitness nut, began experimenting in his kitchen to prepare something he could eat all of the time. After months of tinkering, he hit upon a recipe for high-protein, gluten-free, low-carb pasta made of chickpeas. He started a company called Banza and raised $75,000 in seed money by winning an investment on CNBC. His delicious pasta is now being distributed by Meier and at the Banza website. He hired his first employee last month.

Another Venture for America Fellow in Detroit, Brian Bosche, noticed that small businesses had a hard time creating effective videos to promote themselves online. He began researching technology solutions, including GoPro cameras and cloud editing solutions. He co-founded a company, TernPro, with his friend and Dan Bloom, a 2012 VFA Fellow, and raised $25,000 from Bizdom, an incubator funded by Dan Gilbert. They have 30 customers and have hired 2 people.

Castle, Banza, and TernPro are tiny companies that might not succeed or leave much of a mark on Detroit. But with enough of them, some are bound to become significant. Every tech job in the traded economy (where the goods sold are being bought by companies and people outside the region) accounts for between two and five service jobs—such as waiters, baristas, hairdressers, babysitters. Quicken Loans, which employs 8,000 people in downtown Detroit today and supports thousands more, was itself a startup 29 years ago.

The conditions are right for innovation in Detroit: costs are low and resources are significant. Leaders like Dan Gilbert and NEI are investing in the city’s future. Imagine if the same body of talent that’s currently heading to shrinking fields like law and academia were instead heading to early-stage companies in Detroit? What Detroit needs—what we all need—is for more of our most talented and enterprising people to take on the challenge and the opportunity to build something new.

Andrew Yang is the founder and CEO of Venture for America, a fellowship program that places top college graduates in start-ups for 2 years in low-cost U.S. cities to generate job growth and train the next generation of entrepreneurs. He will speak on a panel about startups and sustaining innovation at the Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference.

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Sharing Bikes Can Lead to A Sustainable World http://techonomy.com/2014/09/sharing-bikes-can-lead-sustainable-world/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/sharing-bikes-can-lead-sustainable-world/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 18:45:15 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18437 Alta Bicycle Share manages bike-sharing systems in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Toronto, Melbourne, and other cities. In five years our bikes have been ridden more than 35 million miles on more than 25 million rides. That’s more than a billion calories burned, and with zero fatalities. But what seems like a fast-rising trend is really the result of decades of work by many people, communities, and visionaries who believed that the simple bicycle could be an economic, environmental, and quality-of-life panacea for modern society.

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We’ve asked speakers at our upcoming Techonomy Detroit conference to share perspectives on topics they will discuss at the event relating to U.S. economic growth, jobs, and urban renewal. (To register for the conference, click here.)

The author wields one of New York City's iconic CitiBikes.

The author wields one of New York City’s iconic CitiBikes.

“Transportation, Recreation, and Innovation” is the tagline of my company, Alta Bicycle Share. We manage bike-sharing systems in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Toronto, Melbourne, and other cities. In five years our bikes have been ridden more than 35 million miles on more than 25 million rides. That’s more than a billion calories burned, and with zero fatalities.

New York’s CitiBike—a bikeshare program with significant corporate involvement in a global media center—has quickly become something of an icon. The CitiBike has appeared on The Daily Show (including in Robin Williams’s last interview and the classic Full Pedal Racket episode), frequently shows up in the Wall Street Journal—including as the object of its editorial board’s disdain, and had a cameo in “Sharknado 2.” CitiBike blue was even the official color of Fashion Week last September.

But what seems like a fast-rising trend is really the result of decades of work by many people, communities, and visionaries who believed that the simple bicycle could be an economic, environmental, and quality-of-life panacea for modern society. Considering the convergence of the sharing economy, solar power, and wireless technologies that enable bike-share stations, it’s now possible to imagine living, working, and playing in our cities more sustainably.

Alta’s multiple offices in great places are populated by young people who are motivated by our mission, who want to spend every day working to make the world a better place. They share the vision I described in my book, “The Third Mode,” that walking, bicycling, and trails are local solutions to the global issues of our time. After 29 years of work that has felt like pushing a rock up a hill, I think we’re finally at the top, ready to enjoy the downhill ride with the wind at our backs.

Projects that we dreamed about a decade ago are now underway: the Arkansas Razorback Greenway, Jackson Hole’s Pathways system, Dubai’s Bicycle/Pedestrian networks, the innovative new National Association of City Transportation Officials Design Guide, the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail in my hometown, and so many others. We’ve achieved scale and scope that make major changes possible.

I see the glass half-full now, but still, our work is only half done.

The Techonomy Detroit conference is a great setting for sharing a vision of how new methods of mobility can move us all forward and for exploring the potential to combine public, private, and non-profit leadership resources to help make people healthier and happier.

The work of people like those gathering for Techonomy gives me hope for the future. Let’s keep moving towards a green society one day at a time, one project at a time.

Jeff Olson is an architect, planner, and author who co-founded Alta Bicycle Sharing. He will speak on a panel about responsive transit at the Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference.

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Detroit’s LevelEleven Revs Sales Motivation http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroits-leveleleven-revs-sales-motivation/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroits-leveleleven-revs-sales-motivation/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 17:43:56 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18431 What do you do as a manager when the conventional means of motivating your sales team—competitions, prizes, inspirational speeches—fall flat? How can you leverage technology to help rally and focus your team around company initiatives, product launches, and winning new business? LevelEleven CEO Bob Marsh set out to tackle these questions when he was at his former job as head of sales operations at consumer engagement platform HelloWorld. Before long, what began as an in-house project evolved into a promising product. “After about six months, we had signed up a dozen paying customers, including the Detroit Pistons and Comcast, so we knew we were on to something,” says Marsh.

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In anticipation of our Techonomy Detroit conference on September 16, we are profiling Detroit-area tech startups that are driving the city’s re-emergence as a center of innovation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat do you do as a manager when the conventional means of motivating your sales team—competitions, prizes, inspirational speeches—fall flat? How can you leverage technology to help rally and focus your team around company initiatives, product launches, and winning new business?

Questions like these kept Bob Marsh, former head of sales operations and training at HelloWorld, up at night. (HelloWorld, formerly ePrize, is a customer engagement platform that leverages social analytics and consumer behavior reporting.) So he started tinkering. The company’s CEO gave him a couple of engineers and a team to help develop an internal sales motivation system. Before long, what began as an in-house project evolved into a promising product. “After about six months, we had signed up a dozen paying customers, including the Detroit Pistons and Comcast, so we knew we were on to something,” says Marsh. Realizing that the side project was ready to become a stand-alone business, Marsh and his team launched LevelEleven in October 2012.

We interviewed Marsh by email to learn how his company evolved and how Detroit provided fertile soil for growth.

How did your background in sales lead to the development of the LevelEleven platform?

I started working sales in retail and telemarketing while in college, and after graduating from college joined the sales team at Xerox. So after 20 years selling and working with salespeople, I gained a very clear sense of what motivates them. Research has validated my experience that salespeople are motivated by three things: money, competition, and recognition. There’s rarely a system that a management team can leverage to recognize a job well done and methodically track peer competitions. Salespeople spend only about 37 percent of their time actually selling, studies have found, so sales leaders are constantly seeking ways to squeeze maximum productivity out of their sales team.

What kinds of systems does the platform use to motivate sales teams?

Companies often use CRM systems like salesforce.com to measure and track sales activities—meetings, new product pitches, creating new sales opportunities, and closing deals. The LevelEleven software bolts on top of Salesforce. It allows managers to pinpoint the behaviors they want to see more often, and then immediately launch leaderboards that showcase how the team is doing relative to those metrics. Those leaderboards are then shown all over the place—in the CRM system, via email each morning, on mobile devices, and even up on big-screen TV’s in the office. That gives salespeople insight into how they are doing in comparison to the metrics and their peers, and encourages them to become more focused on the behaviors their manager wants to see.

Managers generally know what they want to see happen, but lack a way to drive that behavior change rapidly. They can coach people and talk about it at the weekly team meeting, which they should do. But without giving salespeople constant insight into how they are doing, it’s tough to change things.

How did the integration with Salesforce come about?

As the industry’s leading sales CRM tool, Salesforce is very partner friendly. The over 100,000 customers on their own roster gave us a very focused platform to work with to speed up our development cycles and product evolution, and provide a robust prospective customer list. Salesforce has been a great partner, and last year they got so excited about what we’re doing that they invested in our company. This provides even more validation for our team, our investors, and most importantly our customers, that we’re onto something pretty special.

Team (1)

The LevelEleven team at Detroit’s Coleman A. Young Municipal Center

What has the company’s growth been like since it launched?

Very strong. We launched about two years ago. Today we have 25 full-time team members. We’re growing at a 300 percent annual rate, and have 150-plus customers including Comcast, Akamai, Forrester Research, HootSuite, and eBay.

How do you see the platform evolving?

Data is coming from everywhere these days, which is giving sales and marketing leaders more insights than ever before. However, that data hasn’t really been used in a way to help sales leaders get the most out of their teams, or to help salespeople know where they should focus their time. We are already starting to ride the wave of massive changes in the world of sales when it comes to technology and data insights, and I believe we are going to be right in the center of that change.

How does being based in Detroit add value to LevelEleven?

I love being in Detroit. Anyone who wants to work at a startup wants to be part of building something. So the idea of building a company, and thereby playing your part in helping grow a city, is pretty special. My favorite part of being based here is the positive effect it has on recruiting. People come to us with this deep, emotional desire to be part of the resurgence of Detroit. You cannot get that kind of deep-rooted excitement anywhere else.

Do you have Detroit roots yourself?

I live here in metro-Detroit and this is where my wife and parents grew up as well, so Detroit is home. I went to grade school and high school outside of Buffalo, NY; that’s where I grew up, but Detroit has always been our home base.

How has Detroit Venture Partners been involved in the growth of LevelEleven?

DVP is our lead investor and has been a tremendous partner. They give us the flexibility to run our company as we best see fit, while at the same time encouraging us to keep growing, and coaching us on our blind spots.

What do you think Detroit’s biggest challenges are, and do you see signs of positive change?

Aside from the real financial issues, which are being worked through, I think the real issue is perception. There are some really special things happening here, our own company being evidence of that. Dozens of startup companies are down here, more businesses are moving into the city, the M-1 Rail is something that’s been talked about for years and is actually happening, the soon-to-be districts around the new Red Wings Arena, and on and on.

What do events like Techonomy Detroit mean for the city?

Things like Techonomy are huge as it’s just one more reason to get innovative people talking about what’s happening in Detroit, and to get more people downtown to see what’s going on.

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How Sharing, RoboCars, and 3D Printing Can Reinvent Industrial Detroit http://techonomy.com/2014/09/sharing-robocars-3d-printing-can-reinvent-industrial-detroit/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/sharing-robocars-3d-printing-can-reinvent-industrial-detroit/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:33:43 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18397 "The age of the industrial city is over, at least in the West, and it will never return," declared Edward Glaeser in his book “Triumph of the City.” Detroit, whose decline he blamed on the "extravagant success of Ford's big idea" that "brought hundreds of thousands of less-well-educated workers to vast factories," was Glaeser's best evidence. The Harvard economics professor might be right about Detroit’s past. But a Motor City renaissance is determined to prove him wrong about its future. And Detroit’s industrial character will almost certainly be the key to its rebirth.

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Detroit skyline illustration via Shutterstock

Detroit skyline illustration via Shutterstock

By Bill Coughlin

“The age of the industrial city is over, at least in the West, and it will never return,” declared Edward Glaeser in his book “Triumph of the City.” Detroit, whose decline he blamed on the “extravagant success of Ford’s big idea” that “brought hundreds of thousands of less-well-educated workers to vast factories,” was Glaeser’s best evidence.

The Harvard economics professor might be right about Detroit’s past. But a Motor City renaissance is determined to prove him wrong about its future. And Detroit’s industrial character will almost certainly be the key to its rebirth.

Detroit has a lot going for it.  It has a huge landmass to work with, a virtually unlimited supply of fresh water (although collecting revenue from its distribution to residents remains problematic), four-season recreation, and tens of thousands of experienced automotive and other sorts of engineers working in or around Detroit. And in the last couple of years, the city’s downtown has become a magnet for tech-savvy entrepreneurs.

What’s missing is a solution for its surrounding neighborhoods and communities that doesn’t require simultaneous miracles in funding and reeducation. As President and CEO of Ford Global Technologies, I believe Detroit’s industrial base can—and should—supply the solution not only for Detroit’s reinvention, but for the reinvention of other industrial cities around the world.

I propose we invent Detroit 2.0 in the age of democratized robotics by leveraging our next generation of industrial innovations to redesign neighborhood communities around a repeatable core and shared assets. Specifically, I’m suggesting sharing RoboCars, robots, and 3D printers in the open-source lab we call Detroit to reinvent the industrial city.

Consider that robots are available today that can play with your children, scrub your floors while you sleep, and even work safely alongside you on the job. The manufacturer of that working robot, Rethink Robotics, has also proven that anybody can learn how to “program” a work robot like its Baxter within hours—no expensive college degree necessary. (Rodney Brooks spoke about Baxter at Techonomy 2012.)

Though fully robotic automobiles are still years away, once RoboCars are in production, neighborhood communities will be able to share. A new kind of taxi and truck driver will emerge—one more like today’s air-traffic controllers and drone operators. And retraining can be provided primarily through free or low-cost massive open online courses.

Ford logoAutomakers like Ford are also using sophisticated 3D printers to make functional parts to speed up the vehicle development process. 3D printers are not yet ready to replace high-volume manufacturing plants, but they could be shared by several businesses in the same neighborhood to print a wide variety of parts on demand.

And just like the advent of reproducible parts a century ago, 3D printers will transform manufacturing, beginning with speeding up product development. Importantly, anyone in the neighborhood can begin transforming ideas into prototypes with just a few hours of training. Just visit a local TechShop to experience what a difference a supportive community can make.

Imagine a neighborhood core that could be replicated around the city: the auditorium of a community center could be used at different times as a movie theatre, a church, a synagogue, and a classroom for MOOC lectures; the same community center building could house a TechShop with 3D printers and Baxter robots; offices could be reserved like hotel rooms for consultations with neighborhood bankers, lawyers, photographers; and everyone could come and go to the community center using a small fleet of self-driving cars. They would know a few roads, operate at neighborhood speeds, and could be remotely monitored or controlled by a human operator. Residential homes could also be redesigned for multigenerational human and robot cohabitation.

There is probably no city in America more ready for a rebirth, and no better place to invent the future that city dwellers need. I was born and raised within the City of Detroit, so I know that there is no shortage of people who work hard—and are aching for the chance to help build a better future for our city.  With a compelling vision to create a new city neighborhood from the ground up, and a diverse mix of companies where the American pioneering spirit still lives, Detroit will be able to exit bankruptcy with a reinvented industrialized neighborhood that would do the innovators at IDEO proud. Detroiters helping to build could earn their way with sweat equity, as well as earn from their work in the industry and services being provided from the neighborhood. And, of course, royalties could be earned from the inventive solutions brought to life by Detroit 2.0. Let’s get started!

Bill Coughlin is president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies.

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Rebuilding the American Dream in a Global, Networked Economy http://techonomy.com/2014/09/rebuilding-american-dream-global-networked-economy/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/rebuilding-american-dream-global-networked-economy/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 14:28:59 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18384 Despite strides in jobs and the economy, Americans remain pessimistic about their future, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Three-quarters of respondents said that they are not confident that their children’s generation will be better off than their own. More than half reportedly believe that a growing income gap between the rich and poor undermines the American dream. The fact is that technology and globalization are changing our way of life. While enriching us in many ways, these transformative forces have eliminated secure jobs and eroded economic security for millions.

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We’ve asked speakers at our upcoming Techonomy Detroit conference to share perspectives on topics they will discuss at the event relating to U.S. economic growth, jobs, and urban renewal. (To register for the conference, click here.)

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

Despite strides in jobs and the economy, Americans remain pessimistic about their future, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Three-quarters of respondents said that they are not confident that their children’s generation will be better off than their own. More than half reportedly believe that a growing income gap between the rich and poor undermines the American dream.

The fact is that technology and globalization are changing our way of life. While enriching us in many ways, these transformative forces have eliminated secure jobs and eroded economic security for millions. Recognizing the challenges ahead, the Markle Foundation launched its Markle Economic Future Initiative to identify solutions and partnerships to help all Americans flourish in today’s networked world. Where some see only challenges ahead, the members of the Markle Initiative and I see opportunity.

We start by stepping back to consider the full picture of our complex society. From here we see not only symptoms of alienation and exhausted institutions, but, more importantly, the promise and opportunity of tomorrow.

Next, we look to our past for inspiration. America has experienced social and economic transformation before. But each time it has emerged stronger as a result. Yet hardly anyone has been able to comprehend the scale and the meaning of such periods when they were just beginning.

While we may not know precisely how this next chapter in our nation’s rich story may unfold, we can begin to reimagine and rebuild what has been the bedrock of our nation: the American dream. It has always been a dream about fair chances and fresh starts. It’s the dream that hard work, talent, and creativity can lead to a life of abundance—not just the material kind, but an abundance of ideas, possibilities, and life journeys.

The future can present opportunities to engage in a more “distributed” economy, to enjoy a near-infinite variety of identities and pursuits, to learn from and be enriched by more flexible, adaptable social structures than ever before. Local communities and their governments may drive the action as much or more than national ones do. Openness to the widest, most diversified participation could once more become a distinctively American advantage.

In theory, the American economic future should be promising, exciting. It should be easier to start and grow businesses. And it should be easier for everyone to get the education they need, whenever in life they need it.

But right now the theory is not proving out. Business growth and entrepreneurialism is not as robust as needed. Educational improvement is slow to take off. Why? Because theory is practiced by institutions, by the collective habits of a people.  And America’s institutions have not yet caught up with the possibilities being created by this new era in economic history.

Don’t expect technology to work miracles. Instead, the great challenge is: How can we change our institutions and our national habits to grab the opportunities in a new economy and different world?  That is a tremendous agenda. But we should not be discouraged by it. America has been here before.

After all, the America of today was yesterday’s triumph of collective industrial design. In earlier times, cities grew up around the ports, railroads, and highways that brought supplies to factories and took finished products away. Farmers moved to cities for work. Farms became agricultural factories. Roads connected people to retail hubs where products were sold.

The system ran on vast quantities of energy. The energy was abundant but costly, limited by the capacity to find fossil fuels and bring them affordably to where they were needed.

Children attended educational hubs organized by age and marched through prescribed curriculum, earning certificates that attested to their completion of high school, college, or beyond. Armed with certificates, people could gain jobs.

Workplaces and firms served as central gathering places for workers, and America used these firms to outfit employees and their families with health care, retirement plans, and tax collection. The workplace defined identity and served as a principal source of community.

The organization of government was based on industrial models. So was the organization of health care.

The industrial workday set standard patterns of when people expected to work, play, and go to school. The term “9 to 5″ passed into common usage, along with terms like “weekend.”

As industrial structures changed, people were expected to keep up. Increasingly they could not, often because they were trapped in practices based on the older structures.

None of these patterns were natural features of American society. The deliberate industrial design of today’s America is about 140 years old.

A different kind of economy and society beckons: disaggregated, decentralized, and networked. How it develops will vary by community and person, depending on our choices. Past revolutions, including the Industrial Revolution, unfolded differently from one place to the next. Some choices enlarged the scope of social betterment. Others confined it. Intentions matter. Leadership matters.

Recognizing that technology and globalization are rapidly transforming our society and economy, the Markle Foundation last year launched its Markle Economic Future Initiative. Co-chaired by Markle President Zoë Baird and Howard Schultz, chairman, president, and CEO of Starbucks, the Initiative is bringing together a broad coalition of leaders who are committed to finding ways to help all Americans successfully transition to today’s economy.

We believe still bolder and better ideas are yet to come. We seek to identify and help nurture them. We now have the ability and the responsibility to leverage the forces of change; to create a better world for ourselves and our children.

As we prepare for Techonomy Detroit, let’s challenge ourselves to identify the core design principles for the next era of American life. What kind of America do we want to shape for the future?

Markle is dedicated to bringing people together to advance America’s future and we invite you to join us. To learn how members of the Markle Economic Future Initiative are beginning to answers these questions and for a sample of the forces impacting our economy and society, visit www.markle.org.

Philip Zelikow is the Visiting Managing Director of the Markle Foundation and the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is a Member of the Markle Economic Future Initiative and will speak on a session about the American dream at the Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference.

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Our Era of Preventive Genetic Screening: Brought to You in Part by Mary-Claire King http://techonomy.com/2014/09/welcome-era-preventive-genetic-screening-brought-part-mary-claire-king/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/welcome-era-preventive-genetic-screening-brought-part-mary-claire-king/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 16:45:15 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18364 Two decades ago, Mary-Claire King made one of the most important contributions to modern healthcare when she discovered the first gene linked to breast cancer. Now, she’s trying to one-up herself. King, a genetics pioneer who won a major scientific award this week from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, has issued a call to change how we think about gene testing in an approach she believes will prevent cancer, not just catch it early. (And if you’ve never met King, the fact that she’s using her award to shed light on a serious public health need rather than to celebrate her own career tells you a little something about her character.)

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0113geneticistport (1)Two decades ago, Mary-Claire King made one of the most important contributions to modern healthcare when she discovered the first gene linked to breast cancer. Now, she’s trying to one-up herself.

King, a genetics pioneer who won a major scientific award this week from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, has issued a call to change how we think about gene testing in an approach she believes will prevent cancer, not just catch it early. (And if you’ve never met King, the fact that she’s using her award to shed light on a serious public health need rather than to celebrate her own career tells you a little something about her character. You can read more about her in this New York Times article.)

Most scientists would publish a proposal like this in Nature or Science, the two leading research journals. But King chose to publish in JAMA, one of the most respected medical journals, to get her message straight to physicians. And the message is this: Don’t wait until someone has had breast cancer or shows risk factors before testing. Every woman age 30 and older, King says, should be screened for the genes linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Make no mistake: King’s proposal is more than just a new approach to cancer screening. This is a watershed moment for all genetic testing, which is currently used in a highly targeted manner—usually for people at clear risk of a disease, or to confirm a diagnosis based on existing symptoms. For years, scientists have imagined a world in which genetic testing is done for everybody, possibly even at birth, so that diseases can be avoided rather than managed. But imagination and obvious clinical utility are very different things. King’s proposal is the first to focus on dramatically expanding the use of an existing and proven genetic test, making her plea far more likely to resonate with medical professionals and the patients they serve. (Whether the insurance companies who pay them will heed the call is another story entirely.)

King’s scientific path could be described as a sleeper hit of a career. Starting in the ’70s, she toiled away, largely unnoticed, for nearly 20 years on a quest to find a gene linked to increased risk of breast cancer. At the time, the vast majority of scientists believed there was no such thing as genetic cancer risk, and that people like King were tilting at windmills. When she finally did locate the gene she named BRCA1—a feat that made her a household name among geneticists—it was almost immediately snapped up in the whirlwind of corporate gene patenting that took place during the early days of the Human Genome Project. BRCA1 was essentially off-limits to all but the patent holders from the late ’90s until last year, when a Supreme Court ruling declared that genes could not be patented. At last, the gene King had dedicated most of her career to was accessible for testing by any clinical lab, for any patient.

If ever there was a time for a prominent scientist to make such a proposal, this is it. The genes (BRCA1 and its companion, BRCA2) are available for testing with the best DNA analysis tools yet. Last year’s announcement by Angelina Jolie that she had a prophylactic double mastectomy based on her gene test results has sparked what medical geneticists are calling the Angelina Effect: anecdotal evidence suggests that labs are seeing double or even quadruple the number of women interested in breast cancer gene testing now than they did a year ago. At the same time, the preventive value of mammograms has increasingly been called into question, leading women to seek alternatives.

King has gone from contrarian scientist to a highly respected researcher who has been honored by her peers, the prestigious Lasker Foundation, and even Hollywood (Helen Hunt played King in this indie film released last year). If you’d like to show her some gratitude, here are two things you can do:

1. Tell your doctor you want to have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene test to determine your risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. If you’re a dude, encourage your wife/sister/daughter to do so.

2. When you ask for the test, pronounce “BRCA1” the way King intended it: spelled out, letter by letter, rather than the “brah-kuh” pronunciation that has caught on instead.

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How Open Data Is Transforming City Life http://techonomy.com/2014/09/open-data-transforming-city-life/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/open-data-transforming-city-life/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:09:29 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18357 Start a business. Manage your power use. Find cheap rents, or avoid crime-ridden neighborhoods. Cities and their citizens worldwide are discovering the power of “open data”—public data and information available from government and other sources that can help solve civic problems and create new business opportunities. By opening up data about transportation, education, health care, and more, municipal governments are helping app developers, civil society organizations, and others to find innovative ways to tackle urban problems.

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We’ve asked speakers at our upcoming Techonomy Detroit conference to share perspectives on topics they will discuss at the event relating to U.S. economic growth, jobs, and urban renewal. (To register for the conference, click here.)

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

Start a business. Manage your power use. Find cheap rents, or avoid crime-ridden neighborhoods. Cities and their citizens worldwide are discovering the power of “open data”—public data and information available from government and other sources that can help solve civic problems and create new business opportunities. By opening up data about transportation, education, health care, and more, municipal governments are helping app developers, civil society organizations, and others to find innovative ways to tackle urban problems. For any city that wants to promote entrepreneurship and economic development, open data can be a valuable new resource.

The urban open data movement has been growing for several years, with American cities including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington in the forefront. Now an increasing number of government officials, entrepreneurs, and civic hackers are recognizing the potential of open data. The results have included applications that can be used across many cities as well as those tailored to an individual city’s needs.

At first, the open data movement was driven by a commitment to transparency and accountability. City, state, and local governments have all released data about their finances and operations in the interest of good government and citizen participation. Now some tech companies are providing platforms to make this kind of city data more accessible, useful, and comparable. Companies like OpenGov and Govini make it possible for city managers and residents to examine finances, assess police department overtime, and monitor other factors that let them compare their city’s performance to neighboring municipalities.

Other new businesses are tapping city data to provide residents with useful, practical information. One of the best examples is NextBus, which uses metropolitan transportation data to tell commuters when to expect a bus along their route. Commuter apps like this have become common in cities in the U.S. and around the world. Another website, SpotCrime, collects, analyzes, and maps crime statistics to tell city dwellers which areas are safest or most dangerous and to offer crime alerts. And the Chicago-based Purple Binder helps people in need find city healthcare services. Many companies in the Open Data 500, the study of open data companies that I direct at the GovLab at NYU, use data from cities as well as other sources.

Open city data can help app developers, urban planners, and others understand a city’s problems and manage city services in ways that improve the quality of life and business prospects for its residents. In addition to creating economic value as businesses in their own right, companies like NextBus and SpotCrime help strengthen cities and improve their economic prospects overall. NextBus has a mission to make public transportation more efficient and appealing so that more people will use it. SpotCrime was launched to help users to decide where to live, where to operate a business, or simply where to walk at night.

Some of the most ambitious uses of city data—with some of the greatest potential—focus on improving education. In Washington, the nonprofit Learn DC has made data about public schools available through a portal that state agencies, community organizations, and civic hackers can all use. They’re using it for collaborative research and action that, they say, has “empowered every DC parent to participate in shaping the future of the public education system.”

Several cities have spurred innovation by releasing new public data and then launching competitions to encourage developers to apply it. One of the biggest competitions is New York City Big Apps, for which I have served as an evaluator. The budding companies in this year’s contest covered a wide range of city problems and solutions. Here are some of the finalists:

  • NYC Hired predicts “which fields are the most promising in New York City based on salaries and growth potential.”
  • Ohmconnect helps manage the city’s power needs by paying people to reduce their electricity use so that the most inefficient power plants don’t have to supply more power.
  • RentHackr incorporates crowdsourced data to give current and prospective city residents reliable data on buildings, rents, and upcoming vacancies.
  • Responcer uses a simple visual system to allow anyone in the city to call from a smartphone for specific emergency help, including police, fire, and ambulance services.
  • Mind My Business tells brick and mortar businesses in the city about road closures or other local events that could affect them.

That last is just one example of how open data can help small businesses do well. Another, On Deck, is now making it easier for small and medium enterprises nationwide to find the business loans they need. On Deck uses open data from a variety of government and other sources to determine how safe an investment a business will be. Lenders generally can’t take the time to do this kind of due diligence on small companies, so On Deck does it for them, enabling them to lend with confidence.

The open data movement has already had an impact on government, scientific research, and economic sectors including finance, healthcare, energy, and transportation. As more municipal governments and civic-minded developers learn how to use it, open data has the potential to start to transform our cities as well.

Joel Gurin is senior advisor at the GovLab and project director of the Open Data 500. He will speak on a session about open data at the Sept. 16 Techonomy Detroit conference.

(Read about how technology is changing the way people find jobs in the UK and about a unique civic innovation program in Mexico City.) 

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How Detroit Turned Me into a Coder and Entrepreneur http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-turned-coder-entrepreneur/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/detroit-turned-coder-entrepreneur/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 14:17:26 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18341 There are three things happening in my life right now that, frankly, would have shocked the college-aged Kate Catlin: I live in Detroit; I’m being trained as a coder; and I’m starting a tech company. All through college I was a gregarious environmental activist living in Washington State and happily climbing mountains every weekend. I dreamed of traveling abroad and leading political campaigns, or maybe a “social enterprise” like TOMS shoes. It almost gives me whiplash to look around now and ask, “What just happened?”

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In anticipation of our Techonomy Detroit conference on September 16, we are profiling Detroit-area tech startups and entrepreneurs that are driving the city’s re-emergence as a center of innovation. (To register for the conference, click here.)

There are three things happening in my life right now that, frankly, would have shocked the college-aged Kate Catlin:

  • I live in Detroit.
  • I’m being trained as a coder.
  • I’m starting a tech company.

All through college I was a gregarious environmental activist living in Washington State and happily climbing mountains every weekend. I dreamed of traveling abroad and leading political campaigns, or maybe a “social enterprise” like TOMS shoes.  It almost gives me whiplash to look around now and ask, “What just happened?”

37d70cbHow did I get to Detroit?

There is no way I’d be in Detroit if not for Venture for America, a program in which young people spend two years in the startup trenches in lower-cost cities (e.g., Detroit, Providence, New Orleans). The goal is that fellows become “socialized and mobilized as entrepreneurs moving forward.” After being accepted as a fellow, I interviewed with several Venture for America-approved companies across the country and one, called Grand Circus, caught my eye. A member of the Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network, Grand Circus is a Detroit startup that promotes tech startups in the city while providing tech trainings for all skill levels.

I accepted their job offer and moved to the Motor City.

I’m learning to code?

Joining Grand Circus was an incredible opportunity: I got to help open the doors of a business, set up operational structures, and create new programs with Google’s backing. Being surrounded by tech people, I came to the unsurprising conclusion that the stereotypes were wrong: Coders are actually cool and socially skilled people, not just weird dudes with comic-book tee shirts. I could actually see myself as one of them.

After a year of selling other people on pursuing tech careers through Grand Circus classes, I accidentally sold myself. I took a 3-day “Learn to Code” workshop at Grand Circus, then a 10-week “Build a Dynamic Website” course. Someone recently told me that coding is like a superpower: You have the power to create anything you can dream of with just your mind and your fingers. I was increasingly hooked.

Then, out of nowhere, another unbelievable Detroit opportunity turned up: The Detroit Labs Apprenticeship program. I heard about it from another Venture for America Fellow working there. Over 3 months, 10 lucky folks will be trained as mobile app developers with no background necessary. It not only costs nothing; they actually pay you a salary while you’re training. If you pass, you’re accepted as full-time developer for the company. Detroit Labs, which “dreams up and ships beautiful, intuitive apps,” simply has so much business that they can’t find enough coders and have invested in solving their own problems. After an interview process even more rigorous than Venture for America’s, I somehow got in.

I’m starting a tech company?

Suddenly I was comfortable in the forbidden realm of anything-tech-related. Meanwhile, Venture for America was launching another round of staff-supported crowdfunding campaigns for current fellows. The timing was too serendipitous to ignore. I’d always been passionate about small businesses, and now was becoming increasingly fascinated by the idea of using technology to help them achieve economies of scale. I launched, with Venture for America’s backing, a crowdfunding campaign on Rockethub.com to create what I’m calling Assembly of Commerce. It will be a Web platform for small businesses to band together and rent each other tools and talent. I reached my funding goal of $3,000 in just four days, and had nearly doubled the number by the end of the campaign. Much of the financial backing came through the Venture for America network.

I’m now in the process of interviewing potential customers with the design thinking that Venture for America taught me. I hope for an early 2015 launch.

How much did Venture for America have to do with this?

All of it. I never would have moved to Detroit if not for this program. I never would have met all the open-hearted Midwesterners I now call friends. I never would have gotten to work at a Google Tech Hub without the VFA stamp of approval. I never would have heard about other invaluable opportunities in this city—opportunities that don’t really exist elsewhere. I especially would not be launching a tech company. This program has literally changed my life.

Kate Catlin is a Seattle native, proud Gonzaga University grad, and 2013 Venture for America Fellow.

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Tahoe-Reno Will Be the World’s Battery Capital http://techonomy.com/2014/09/nevada-will-home/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/nevada-will-home/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:56:32 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18312 Tesla's $5 billion Gigafactory will be worth nearly $100 billion to Nevada over 20 years, according to the state's Governor Brian Sandoval and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who announced plans to build the lithium-ion battery plant in the northern part of the state in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. In return, Nevada is expected to allow Tesla billions of dollars in tax breaks. Read more at LA Times

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gigafactory_aerialTesla’s $5 billion Gigafactory will be worth nearly $100 billion to Nevada over 20 years, according to the state’s Governor Brian Sandoval and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who announced plans to build the lithium-ion battery plant in the northern part of the state in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. In return, Nevada is expected to allow Tesla billions of dollars in tax breaks.

The LA Times reported:

“Under the terms of the proposed deal, according to Nevada documents, Tesla would receive up to a 100% tax abatement for the next 20 years for all sales tax, and up to a 100% tax abatement for the next 10 years for all real property tax, personal property tax and modified business tax.

Tesla would also receive a transferable tax credit of 5% of the first $1 billion it invests in the state, and of 2.8% for the next $2.5 billion.”

Techonomy reported in July that Tesla and Panasonic claimed the Gigafactory will produce cells, modules, and packs for Tesla’s electric vehicles and for the stationary storage market in order to “enable a continuous reduction in the cost of long-range battery packs in parallel with manufacturing at the volumes required to enable Tesla to meet its goal of advancing mass market electric vehicles.” At the time, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas were also vying to host the plant, which is expected to create 6,500 jobs. 

In a press conference last week, Sandoval called Musk and Tesla “21st century pioneers, fueled with innovation and desire, are emboldened by the promise of Nevada to change the world.”

Musk called Nevada a real “get things done” state and the factory “an important step in advancing the cause of sustainable transportation and will enable the mass production of compelling electric vehicles for decades to come.” 

Read more at LA Times

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People Are Still More Adaptable Than Robots http://techonomy.com/2014/09/robots-common-sense/ http://techonomy.com/2014/09/robots-common-sense/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 17:25:45 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=18278 The media and pundits have exaggerated the threat robots present to human workers' livelihood, claims labor market scholar David Autor. Reporting on ideas Autor presented at a recent bankers' conference, New York Times writer Neil Irwin sums up the argument: "Even as computers have gotten better at rote tasks, they have progressed far less in applying common sense." Read more at The New York Times

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The Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics may not displace as many middle-class jobs as feared.

Robots like Baxter from Rethink Robotics may not displace as many middle-class jobs as feared.

Media and pundits have exaggerated the threat robots present to human workers’ livelihood, claims labor market scholar David Autor. Reporting on ideas Autor presented at a recent bankers’ conference, New York Times writer Neil Irwin sums up the argument: “Even as computers have gotten better at rote tasks, they have progressed far less in applying common sense.”

The MIT economist, who traces the origins of “automation anxiety” back to the early 19th century Luddites, argues that “journalists and expert commentators overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities.”

Instead, his research indicates that “the challenges to substituting machines for workers in tasks requiring adaptability, common sense, and creativity remain immense.” And contrary to popular belief that robots are partly to blame for job market shrinkage, he notes that “the onset of the weak U.S. labor market of the 2000s coincided with a sharp deceleration in computer investment” by private industry. He blames the dot-com bubble’s burst, the housing market collapse, and the rise in Chinese imports for a deceleration in jobs.

Not only are robots not a long-term threat to workers, Autor argues, but they actually amplify “the comparative advantage of workers in supplying problem solving skills, adaptability, and creativity.” In tasks that demand “flexibility, judgment, and common sense” such as “developing a hypothesis or organizing a closet,” he argues, “computers are often less sophisticated than preschool age children.”

The Times’ Irwin asks, “So what does that mean for workers over the years and decades ahead?” Autor sees increasing opportunities for jobs that “combine routine technical tasks with the set of non-routine tasks in which workers hold comparative advantage.”

Though Techonomy’s own events have explored several aspects of the robotics age with an optimistic outlook, we’re as guilty as any media outlet of reporting that robots will kill industrial jobs. Autor’s outlook promotes what we would call a 180 degree shift.

Read more at The New York Times

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