Barbara Payne's Capitalist Cleveland Blog

News and Views: Entrepreneurs a-thrive in Northeast Ohio

Monday, October 31, 2005

Ohio issues

The issues on the state of Ohio ballot this month are important ones. They have to do with reforming the way government works--if you feel the way the state is divided into districts shouldn't be determined by a partison individual but rather by an impartial panel, for example--vote yes on that issue. If you feel people shouldn't be allowed to give $20,000 on behalf of every member in a family to support a particular candidate, vote yes on limiting campaign contributions.

The issues deserve your earnest attention and careful votes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

NEO holds vast town meeting - give YOUR input

Here's copy from the promo about this--it sounds like a great idea. Of course, end results will depend on who gets the input and how they make use of it. This comes from the Fund for Our Economic Future--the group that all our local foundations put together.

So many previous efforts to aggregate the power of the people from across the region have begun with a bang, then fizzled and faded away. Let us hope this passionate attempt will make the difference we all crave for the economic future of Northeast Ohio.
Come to the Regional Town Meeting!
Hundreds of people from every corner of the region will come together next month at the Voices & Choices Regional Town Meeting on Saturday, November 12 at the University of Akron (read more here). Participants will use keypad polling and groupware computers to find common ground on the most important challenges facing the region.

We need your help to ensure that participants represent the diversity of the region! Contact your friends, family and colleagues today to sign up for the Town Meeting. More importantly, volunteer to help us identify those whose voices tend to be less heard in your community!

You can register for the Town Meeting at OR by calling 216- 749-8225. Lunch will be provided, as well as transportation, translation, and child-care assistance. Space is limited, so sign up today!

Listen up, bloggers and RTA

Blogger Paul Goyette came up with this idea to link Chicago bloggers to their train stops on a CTA train map. Check out the site here. This might be a cool way for RTA to raise visibility for not only its current stops but all the stops it's planning in various parts of Cleveburg. Get people excited about it, get more bloggers writing about it.

All the greatest cities have superb public transportation systems. Let's help RTA put Cleveland on that list.

How to lose good employees

Yahoo! HotJobs just completed a survey about employment plans with 1000 currently employed U.S. workers. Forty percent plan to look for a new job in the next year; 21% are already doing so. Among those who plan to change, most (96%) are after money--better pay or benefits. Other motivating factors:
-- 44% felt there was no "potential for career growth" in their current positions

-- Almost a fifth (18 percent) found their commute objectionable (a no-brainer in Cleveland where lots of people regularly drive 40 minutes from one side of town to the other or to Akron/Medina--and our traffic jams are starting to look like they can compete in the big times)

-- A quarter (25 percent) felt their employers did not value their work

-- 29% wanted to work for a company with a "higher morale"
Statistics like these support the case that many U.S. employers have a long way to go in learning how to attract and retain good employees. Without making any value judgment on how "good" these employees are, it's fair to say that if an employee isn't performing because s/he isn't right for the job you hired him/her for, your hiring process or people need work. If these unhappy people are, in fact, doing good work, then the low morale, and the sense of not being valued are serious signs that internal communication systems need tuning--and/or that managers need better training.

So many employees seeing a lack of growth opportunities could indicate their own lack of vision--but most likely it shows that you are not investing enough time in imagining how you can better use the growing experience and skills of your best employees.

How many good employees will you lose this year?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Jane Campbell for mayor--yes, says Crain's

I attended the mayoral debates a few weeks ago (see earlier post) and saw no reason to change my mind that Jane Campbell is a calm, competent, caring candidate for re-election. Might as well say it again today because some bigger guns are behind her as well. Here is an electronic copy of Jane's endorsement by Crain's:

Jane, again

Jane Campbell may lack the dynamic persona of the previous occupant of the mayor's office in Cleveland. However, she has proven to be a more competent administrator than her predecessor, and we believe she has grown in the job during her initial four years in the post. We urge Cleveland voters to give her the opportunity to build on her experience by re-electing Mayor Campbell to a second term on Nov. 8.

Unlike former mayor Mike White, who gave off an aura of infallibility and would bristle at any suggestion that he might not have handled a particular issue or problem in the proper manner, Jane Campbell is honest enough to admit that she doesn't know it all and has learned a lot in her first term in office. And, she acknowledged in a meeting last week with Crain's editorial board, "I suspect in a second term I'll learn even more." It is only from a willingness to learn that growth can come, which is why we believe Jane Campbell is a better mayor now than four years ago.

For instance, early in her term the mayor seemed to operate by the philosophy that the best way for the city to promote economic development was to get out of the way of business and let it happen. However, in more recent times the mayor's office has taken a more activist role in contacting hundreds of businesses and trying to see what the city can do to keep them and their valuable jobs in Cleveland.

Mayor Campbell also has created a more inviting atmosphere than her predecessor for companies and developers to do business in the city. A prime example is the experience of developer Scott Wolstein, who is pursuing plans for a $230 million residential and retail redevelopment project on the East Bank of the Flats. Mr. Wolstein has stated that he and his late father, Bart, met resistance from the previous administration when it came to plans they concocted for the Flats land. By contrast, Mr. Wolstein said he has been "blown away" by the cooperation he has received from all levels of city government for advancing his Flats East Bank plan.

This endorsement doesn't mean we're entirely pleased with the mayor's performance over the last four years. We have been critical of her failure to be a vocal champion of a clearly defined economic development vision for Cleveland. We also don't share her desire to bring casino gambling to the city.

Nonetheless, we believe the improvements her administration has made in the inner workings of city government and the job knowledge she has gained that can be used to the city's advantage over the next four years give Jane Campbell the edge over her opponent, City Council President Frank Jackson.

We believe Mr. Jackson, like Mayor Campbell, is an earnest public servant who wants what's best for the people of the city of Cleveland. However, we don't find in Mr. Jackson's economic development platform much that is substantially different or better than programs and initiatives that already are in place or in progress under the current administration.

Rather than switch captains of the ship simply for the sake of change, we would prefer to stay with a pilot who can build upon four years of experience at the helm. It is why we endorse Jane Campbell for mayor.
Well said, Crain's.

You go, girl.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Columbus entrepreneur creates "startup community" blog network

In the true spirit of entrepreneurialism, Ryan Mapes started The Go BIG Network to invite entrepreneurs to connect with other startups in the business community. The network is intended to provide a central location to find resources crucial to every startup business (i.e. funding, employees, partners, etc).

GoBig arrived in the blogosphere Sept. 2004 and is promoted mainly by word of mouth. They invite visitors to request a particular resource from the site, which they then broadcast to others in the startup community who may be able to help you.

Founder Mapes says, "Many successful entrepreneurs and investors have a large rolodex of contacts that they chose to invite to benefit from the resources on Go BIG. We currently have a reach of approximately 10,000 individuals with the highest concentration located in Ohio (we're in Columbus).

They can't yet say exactly how many funding deals, jobs, etc. have been established through the site. The idea of the network is to introduce two parties who might not otherwise have met and let them do the rest. Ryan says they get a lot of feedback from "successful encounters and solid click-through rates on many of the Requests that are sent out (implying successful connection)."

The mission of this startup sounds similar to the stated purpose of several high-profile organizations headquartered in Cleveland that operate with government and community grant funds. It'll be interesting to see what a privately funded profit-making model can accomplish. Check 'em out.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Got a bright nano-idea?

And no, the title doesn't mean a really tiny idea. If you're into nanotechnology--whether you're a scientist or a business person--and you've got a great idea for how to create a new product or service related to this burgeoning field, today you can feel encouraged--a few from the group of people invited from around the world who submitted their ideas this year are each going to walk away with about 10 grand today.

The 16 finalists in the International Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition are gathering at Case Western Reserve's Dively Center to see who takes home the prize money. It should be fascinating listening to their presentations (going on right now til about noon). If you're free and you'd still like to run down there and listen, visit this site or call Suzette at 216.368.0598.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Nano-good--and a call to Cleveland

A hotbed of scientists, professors and industry players--that's what Cleveland is this week, starting when nearly 300 attendees took part in the Nano-App Summit as part of NanoWeek.

More than half of the attendees were from outside Ohio, according to Chris Mather, executive director of NanoNetwork and organizer of the Summit. He said 15 countries were represented, including Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, France and others.

At lunch yesterday I asked my seatmate, a Ph.D. polymer chemist from the Netherlands, if it had been worthwhile for him. Definitely yes, Dr.Ir. Sicco de Vos said. He felt he'd learned a few things from the industry speakers--those out there actually applying nanotech in their business models--that he would take back for discussion at his own company, Akzo Nobel, located in Arnhem and specializing in health care, coatings, and chemicals.

Tech transfer directors from Cornell, Case, Pittsburgh, Cleveland State and other universities were in attendance to explain how they could help bring research to commercial markets. Mark Brandt told stories of how his venture capital company, The Maple Fund, works with tech and nanotech companies startups and entrepreneurs to get them properly situated for best access to resources (he loves Cleveland but often recommends Boston and Silicon Valley).

Another story was a little less inspiring. One participant, a chemist with EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company) in Munich, Germany had asked me on Monday if he could take a tour of NASA. I told him I thought the organizers would be able to work that out for him. Unfortunately, I learned later that he had called NASA himself and been turned down--though he could easily have done so through the Summit sponsors. Then I found that while walking downtown, he'd been concerned about whether Cleveland was safe because he and his companion saw so few people--and most of those looked less than savory. He ended up not being able to shop because he wasn't sure where to go. Next, he tried to rent a car and was turned down because his driver's license was in German.

So, instead of staying for the rest of the conference, this first-time visitor to the United States hopped a bus to Canada to visit Niagara Falls. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels bad that his experience was so disappointing. It just points up that we still have work to do to make our city as welcoming as we'd like it to be perceived.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

NanoWeek attracts doers and investors

If you don't know where your business is going next year, don't feel bad. You're not alone. NASA doesn't know where it's going either.

Nanotechnology is blowing their neat strategic plans. Its power and potential are making planning for the future an exercise in guessing. Between the developing regulatory side, the ethical considerations, and the vast, nearly unlimited adventure that nano will make possible, nobody is riding a smooth scenario into the near future.

Cleveland can be proud that the NanoNetwork people, spearheaded by VC guru Mark Brandt of the Maple Fund, attracted such an impressive collection nano-stars from higher education and industry in addition to potential nantech investors for this week of events. Scientists and executives from the aerospace industry, nanoscientists from all over the world, and representatives from a slew of universities with nano departments were in Cleveland yesterday for the opening salvos of NanoWeek.

I attended some of the technical sessions and was blown away by the physics and chemistry ideas being bandied about. Early overarching impression is that everybody's concerned about the completely unknown potential of nanoparticles to screw up life on this planet. Protective measure are being taken; labs are built as "clean" environments and, at Cornell for example, researchers take the nominal step of wearing blue suits, headcoverings and gloves, but their faces are completely uncovered.

If you've read elsewhere, or even some of my posts over on about nano technology, you know that the potential for good is incredible--even unimaginable at this early stage. And its potential for damage is equally vast and as yet mostly uncharted. Boeing and others told us yesterday that they will be demanding that any vendor that wants to supply them with nano-super-hardened materials for parts has to produce proof that what they're selling has passed stringent tests for safety during machining and other processes.

Problem is, nobody's yet sure how to structure tests that will give that solid assurance. Just as when the human race discovered fire and atomic energy--what we don't know most definitely can kill us.

Today's tech sessions are on the automotive industry. More later.

MedXS and the Cleveland job market

Medical equipment is a big budget item for all kinds of medical services. Managing it--acquiring it, appraising it, and reselling/disposing of it--takes time and financial resources. A local NEO entrepreneur came up with the idea of taking those duties off your hands--Kevin Tenkku founded MedXS to do just that. Read more about MedXS here.

I met MedXS's marketing manager, Michael Gonzalez, at a recent NEOBio event where multiple organizations explained how bioscience companies can find help in Northeast Ohio. Michael spoke up and said it had taken him two years when he first moved here to learn about all the people, places, and things he heard about at the event.

I asked him a few questions about his experience:
CC: How did you end up coming to Cleveland?
MG: My wife is from the area and we wanted to raise our child (now children) in Cleveland. Now, as the marketing manager for Med-XS, my job is to generate positive awareness for the company and support our sales efforts. I also direct the company's marketing and communications strategy.

CC: Where did you go at first to look for information? (and how did you identify those people/places?)
MG: For local news I read The Plain Dealer and Crain’s Cleveland Business. For industry news, I subscribe to several e-news publications including Dali-E-News and HealthLeaders. For networking, I am active with NEOSA and NEOBio--both great resources for local contacts on my questions about how to do my job better.

It's good to be able to call or email someone local about challenges I face, and I also want to be a resource for anyone who might find some value in my experience.

Though I'm never truly confident that I have found all of the possible resources--there are so many out there--I've now built a good network of professionals who can assist me in a broad range of area including healthcare, IT, marketing, and sales.

CC: How did you feel about the presentations we saw?
MG: The event was very informative, but I would have liked a few more specifics. We all want to find resources that fit the particular issues that affect us.

CC: How do you feel about Cleveland so far?
MG: I strongly believe in Cleveland and I am a big advocate (both locally and nationally) for the region. And from a personal standpoint, I think it's a wonderful place to raise a family. On the professional side, I think businesses here could do more to make the region attractive to professionals--in particular, by putting a higher value on experience in major markets like New York City.

CC: You felt that coming from the New York market appeared to be a disadvantage in the job market here?
MG: It did occasionally seem to be. And my wife, who is also a marketing professional, had similar experiences.
Well, it seems we're not out of the woods yet, Cleveland. That old accusation of our being a tad provincial might still have some kick in it outside the city. Good thing to work on!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

NanoWeek starts tomorrow

Don't miss this series of events if you have any interest in nanotechnology. You'll meet lots of performers and seekers. Wyndham Hotel tomorrow. More stuff as the week wears on here.

Nanotechnology deserves your attention--even if you're not a player and don't plan to be. This technology is going to affect everything you, your associates, your competitors, and your loved ones do in the very near future. Pay attention now--there's too much at stake to let this stuff go on by--and get your voice recorded.

Selling Is Dead

A book of the same title, Selling is Dead, reveals how sales--of the old-fashioned, plaid-pants-wearing, talk-at-you-til-you-sign-on-the-dotted-line variety--is dead. Certainly that's been true for decades in most b-to-b situations, but the truly complex sale--involving high dollars, multiple levels of management, many layers of approvals and heavy-duty politcal savvy--requires much more sophistication than typical sales training programs are prepared to provide.

Marc Miller, of Sogistics, Inc., was a recent guest on Capitalist Cleveland's hot radio show (broadband copy of the broadcast here) and is so smart that he's got his company writing a Sogistics corporate blog.

The smartest entrepreneurs have begun to understand the power of blogging for bringing the true voice of their company to life and making their products/services more accessible to tens, or hundreds, or even thousands of potential networking contacts and prospective customers.

Now that the mainstream media have pretty much all jumped on this bandwagon, those who've been at it for a while are ahead of the game. Congratulations, Marc. You had the vision to establish yours early--and the wisdom to hire good people to write it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tradesmen and so on at the new Tradesman Tavern

A formal mirrored wall carved around a big beveled mirror--cleaned up now but dating back to the 1800s--graces the back wall of this newest hangout for Parma-ites. Lots of working folks in here erly on a Friday night.

Funny, the driveway abuts the property next door--St. Josephat's Church . Wonder if they gave the priests and the parishioners some kind of deal to get to build right next door.

The bartenders are attractive young ladies wearing plunging necklines, and the mural on the wall depicts steel and autoworkers in hard hats and toolbelts. Menu selections don't, however, consistently carry out the theme. Quesadillas sit next to pork neck bones "with sauce" and Steelman's salad (can you believe a salad with steak and fries on the side?) sits on the sane page with fresh fruit and wild grain or risotto sides.

Give it a try. 5746 on State Road.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

ROI on tech does NEO good

Investing in technology is a good thing--especially when it strengthens the Northeast Ohio economy.

Jumpstart, the guys who partner with every other organization you've ever heard of--and are reporting real results--are announcing a series about how investing in technology today will boost our region's economic growth and global competitiveness in the future. You'll hear national and international technology experts on subjects such as ultra broadband deployment, biomedical research, nanotechnology, energy, power, and propulsion, and instruments & controls. Read more at

First one's next month: November 11th at 12:00pm in cooperation with The City Club of Cleveland. The topic will be "Thriving in a World of Challenge and Change" and feature speaker Deborah Wince-Smith, President of the Council of Competitiveness. Register online or call the City Club at 216-621-0129.

Incidentally, wonder what graphic designer decided to put that sly-smiling buxom woman in a snug sweater at the end of the word "jumpstart" on their email logo? What a sense of humor.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A view from the top

Yes, the perspective of the viewer is profoundly affected by his or her position relative to the object/person being viewed. Like this view from the top of the Prudential Building in Chicago, an executive or business owner who looks out on his dreams but fails to look down and around to see the people who support the company will create one of two scenarios: the executive will either inspire her people to see dreams, too, or s/he will leave them unnoticed, uninspired, and uninclined to do the best job they can. Your intention is critical, and your style of leadership must also reflect your intention.

What do you intend for your company and your employees today?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Segway inventor to speak at Case

If you haven't seen those cool powered people-mover thingies that you steer down the sidewalk by leaning on a handle, you should make a point of checking them out sometime in downtown Cleveland. A report here.

Anyway, the guy who invented them--and lots of other extraordinary things--is speaking at Case next Friday, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Strosacker Auditorium, Case Quad (map here).

A quick lowdown: Dean Kamen, an inventor and physicist, Dean has dedicated his life to developing technologies that help people lead better lives. His world-renowned inventions include: Segway, INDEPENDENCE iBOT, and the Baxter HomeChoice peritoneal dialysis machine.

Check out his research website here.

Come see how passion ignites inventiveness in science and technology!

Case Western Reserve University proudly
welcomes Dean Kamen to campus!

Friday, October 14, 2005, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.
Strosacker Auditorium
As In 1982, Dean founded DEKA Research & Development, a company that became the catalyst for innovation in science and technology. Also notable is one of Dean's proudest accomplishments, which is the founding of FIRST, an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to engage in science and technology. Dean remains the driving force behind FIRST, recruiting titans of America to invest time and resources in this initiative while simultaneously inspiring students to pursue careers in these fields.

Dean has received numerous awards for his innovative inventions that have revolutionized healthcare technology including the National Medal of Technology and the Lemelson-MIT Prize.

Bitching about Palm on the Treo

A couple of months ago, I kept ranting repeatedly about the frustration of being unable to use my new Treo 650 as it was intended to be used. Just search for "Treo" in the search box and you'll see a few of the posts.

Anyway, the other day someone sent me a link that says how three owners of Palm's Treo 600 and 650 hybrid phone/PDAs have filed a lawsuit claiming the devices are inherently defective and are trying to get an injunction to bar their sale. They claim a host of problems, such as the quality of phone calls and the stability of software on device (can you hear us, Palm?). Plaintiffs believe that the problems are due to Palm and not Treo.

I'm in agreement. The software of my Treo has again failed. Can no longer even beam documents between PDAs. Can't get the keyboard function to stay on. If it weren't for the ability to get my email, I'd be standing at the Verizon counter offering to put my name on the list of plaintiffs.

If things get any worse, I'll be there anyway.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cleveland hosts unique nano-week

NanoWeek is kicking off in Cleveland, Ohio, this month--and the NanoAppSummit is October 17 to 19 at the downtown Wyndham Hotel. Today the promoters announced that interested parties can attend educational seminars about nanotechnology, the hottest new science this side of stem cells. Here's the curriculum:
• Nanotechnology 101- What You Need to Know
Case Western Reserve University
• Nanofabrication techniques
Pennsylvania State University
• Nano-Characterization Tools and Techniques
FEI Corporation
• NanoMaterials and Nanopolymer Basics
University of Akron
• Ethical Considerations in Nanotechnology
Office of Naval Research & Kent State University
• NanoPhotonics Applications
Ohio State University and the Center for Multifunctional NanoMaterials and Devices (CMPND)
• Measurement Considerations in Nanoscale Systems
Keithley Instruments
Nanotech University is designed for business executives, research and development leaders, product and marketing specialists, and venture capitalists interested in investing in nanotechnology start-up and portfolio companies. Read more and register here.

The Nano-App Summit takes place during NANO Week--review other activities here.

Eye on IT in Northeast Ohio

Cleveland's a hot town for IT--Jim Cookinham does a fantastic job keeping us informed of the high-level goings on. But there's even more happening. So we're going to keep an "Eye on IT" here at Capitalist Cleveland and let you know about some of the in-the-trenches stuff that goes on.

Like this Saturday you can attend an all-day multi-layered session on what's happening in IT training, jobs and careers in the Cleveland area. Sponsored by the Greater Cleveland PC Users Group (GCPCUG--been around for decades)--whose president this year Bob Coppedge is one of our NEO IT entrepreneurs. This is a special meeting where you can learn:

  • What’s the IT market like for job seekers?
  • What are the hottest skills out there, and who wants them?
  • What certification stands out above all others?
  • And more...

You'll be in good company with folks from the likes of:  ALG  Cleveland State University  Cuyahoga Community College  DeVore Technology  Hiram College  Hyland Software  ITT  New Horizons  Oxford & Associates  Patio Enclosures Inc.  S&P Solutions  University of Phoenix  Vatterott.

9:30 to 4:30 this Saturday. Cleveland State University UC 1 University Center East 22nd Street For more info: (216) 348-3574 or prez Bob Coppedge

Monday, October 03, 2005

Entrepreneurs in high places

Senior executives need help being the best they can be, just as we all do. Met a couple of entrepreneurs the other day who make it their business (literally) to help top execs develop into even better ones.

One of those entrepreneurs, Jay Brinegar, hangs out in the boardrooms and executive suites of Northeast Ohio and across the country helping high-potential leaders achieve their professional development goals. Some of what he does:
 Enable a promoted executive begin to think strategically in addition to his focus on operations and tactics.
 Grow a successful technical leader into a people leader.
 Help functional managers who are promoted to general management develop new skills to manage up effectively (Board or corporate office).
 Coach leaders to become aware of unintended impacts and use alternative approaches to influencing peers and direct reports.
Jay, an industrial psychologist specializing in organizational development, has been at this stuff for 25 years, and he's on the faculty at the Gestalt Institute. Congratulations, Jay, and we're glad you make Cleveland your home.

Wouldn't it be great if we could all afford to have a professional like Jay help us smooth out the ragged edges and the bumpy places in our management style?