Thursday, October 11, 2012

It Takes A Forest

During a recent conversation, someone expressed dismay to me about an organization in Oklahoma City. This organization works directly with startups, yet doesn't appear (at least to the outside viewer) to be particularly keen on working with other similar groups. Anyone who has been paying attention to some of the dialogue in the tech entrepreneurship world knows that a networked community is pretty critical for any locale to foster a robust startup ecosystem.

The more I tried to put myself in this (young) organization's shoes, however, the more I found understanding and appreciation for what they were trying to accomplish. Those of us who work within "the community" ask everyone to contribute into the group in various ways for the good of the ecosystem. That's all well and good, but who said that everyone's contributions have to be of the same nature or the same level or degree? Just because one party's business model allows it to partner with everyone under the sun with little regard for competition or strategy, other parties may not have the same capabilities or goals.

As I looked at this group again, I saw that they were doing things in an open manner, and inviting anyone and everyone to join them. Now, they were only extending invitations to some of their activities (every day's not a party), and they were reaching out on their own terms (I don't see them taking a lot of market feedback at this point). Still, they ARE making an effort.

I'm reminded of the Shel Silverstein book, The Giving Tree. Not everyone - individual or entity - can give without regard. It takes a forest of trees, a community of people and businesses, agencies and advocates, looking for needs and filling them as they can. That's what makes for a healthy startup environment.

So, when you ask why someone isn't contributing to a community effort, ask instead how you can help all the potential players in the community contribute in their own way. Then ask yourself what opportunities exist that you personally could grab and create an impact, either alone or with partners. Then do it. Help out, and help each other. Be a forest of Giving Trees. And be happy.

The Long Road of Startups

Jeff Greene is a man with a message and a mission. He truly believes that his company, MedEncentive, can revolutionize health care. Many other people are inclined to agree with him in theory, but few were willing to put their money up to validate his thesis.

Until now.

Seven years after starting MedEncentive, Jeff's company has been adopted by their first major medical carrier. There are so many lessons in this story - being ahead of the market; the battles of hearts vs. minds vs. wallets; and so on. The story that inspires this post, however, is Jeff's unwavering commitment to his company and his idea that doctors and patients, when provided a system based on evidence and outcomes, could produce superior health outcomes while being paid to do so. I encourage you all to dig into Jeff's story. Not every startup will succeed, and MedEncentive still has plenty of ground to cover. Still, the story is so instructive about committing to a vision for the long haul.

Congrats, Jeff. Best wishes for continued stamina and success, in that order.

Validating MedEncentive’s ‘Answer’ | i2E – Innovation to Enterprise:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Loud City

(image by Greg Burns courtesy of Steve Lackmeyer, aka OKC Central)

 I love Oklahoma City. It's my birthplace, my home, and the place where I'm building my family history and (hopefully) my legacy. It's been blown up (both figuratively and literally), and has recreated (and is still recreating) itself.

Why the lovefest, you ask? Because I spent the past 24+ hours recharging my batteries, in large part with the help of Brad Feld, mentor par excellence. Brad agreed to come speak to various groups within our fair city: entrepreneurs, IT folks, and investors/policy influencers. He's got a new book out called Startup Communities. If his previous works (Do More Faster with David Cohen and Venture Deals with Jason Mendelson, as well as his blogs Feld Thoughts and Ask The VC) are any indication, it's be valuable reading. Brad believes that startup communities can exist anywhere within the constraints of the Boulder Thesis (buy the book and find out). As an OKC resident who has invested a considerable amount of time, effort and resources into the startup community here, I know we fit the bill.

There have been some recent events that have threatened to damage what momentum and strength has already been built. Respected advocates have been slinging arrows at one another, and sides have been drawn by many members of our community.

Let me be explicit where I stand:

Fuck that.

Oklahoma City and the legacy we produce within it matter much more than any immediate dispute. I count both parties as friends, and hope they stay that way. The support of the community is far bigger than this incident.

Within the next week, you'll start to see some momentum around bringing a unified voice (or at least an attempt at unification) in OKC. I'll try to help however I can, and I encourage you to do the same.

Ladies and gentlemen, shit happens. Keep your eyes on the prize. Our city has too much to offer to everyone, and stirring up nastiness, quite frankly, is not how we roll. What makes OKC special is that everyone roots for everyone else to succeed. Let's don't stop that sentiment now.

If you want to be part of positive action moving this forward, sound off on, sound off at #startuprevOKC, or hit me up in private through jrr2ok at jrr2ok dot com or twitter handle at jrr2ok. This doesn't have to be hard.

Our city has the will, the talent and the guts to do this.

City Is One. Loud City.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Melody of Love

Without going into great detail, the Fall/Winter of 1996 was one of the roughest times I experienced in my life. I was dealing with a mess of issues (many, even most, of them of my own making). One day while I was driving, I started playing a mixtape I had just purchased. Nothing extraordinary, until a track began with words that struck a nerve:

I always
Stayed away from love
Afraid of what might
Might happen
Till I thought
I heard a sound above
Singing through my very
Own heart
Was a melody
I never heard
Like birds singing loud
To the sky

Suddenly, chord progressions I had heard a hundred times or more, but this time they were different.

Never dreamed that
True love would help me
Find my way
Didn't know how deep I'd fallen
Until you rescued, rescued me

Something inside of me just broke. All of the expectations I placed on myself and everyone else were revealed as nonsense, and I felt absolutely helpless, powerless, and clueless.

Strings began
I heard the melody again and again
The sound of music
Flowing through my head
So rare
I'm walking on air

At that moment, I felt something different than I had ever felt before. I felt aware of everything I had ever done wrong and thought wrong. And I felt loved anyway. I experienced Grace.

Melody of love
Sing that song for me yeah
I want to hear somebody sing
Melody of love
Oh take me away

Today, we lost the voice that sang that song. The voice that spoke to me. The voice that make my life tolerable, and gradually better. Today, she leads a different choir.

Lest you ever doubt, God Is A DJ. And God spins Donna Summer.