Wednesday, June 24, 2015

And we'll never be Royals, bro.

Report #2 covers my pre-Instagram* trip to Madrid and what I ate there.  
*Due to lack of Instagram, all photos are courtesy of Google Images. 
Howdy Gang!
This is unofficial report number 2. I am integrating well into Spanish society. I will soon be a North Carolina version of Ricardo Montelbon. As I have mentioned before, I was made to drive here. Plus I get to start all over with that pesky points system. Not that the cops could catch you. They all drive the same small cars everyone else does. There is one car style here and it looks like a Ford Festiva.
I might as well sit in the back seat of mine. Roads and sidewalks are both small and both made out of cobblestone. I was on a road recently that I thought was particularly steep. Then I realized I was about to drive down a flight of stairs. Then I rolled forward more as I stalled the car trying to go back up in reverse.
This weekend I went to Madrid. There I saw the Royal Palace and hung out with the king and queen in their throne room. There was lots of things covered in gold. 

Also, it seems that if you are royalty, it is your obligation to have lots of naked people on your walls and ceilings. In this respect, most college dorm rooms are practically a royal palaces, minus the gold and 30 foot ceilings. I think kings are just big frat boys. They even have really cool velvet togas. And the scepter: beer bong. 

After that I walked around the area where they had the Spanish Inquisition. The S.I. was when they tortured you until you admitted to doing something bad, at which time you were immediately tortured for doing bad things. This drew large crowds of people into a large square, including my friends the King family. I could tell the Kings hung out here because there were naked people painted on the sides of the buildings. One of the more popular torture methods was burning people alive. 

 Building on that "cooking" theme, the square is now full of cafes and with dudes who clamp their hands and bang on guitars while singing Spanish songs. I ate there and got pizza(that's a cheese pizza, Russell). Spanish pizza is different because they use about a teaspoon of sauce and a pound of cheese. The top of pizza was burnt, leading me to believe it may have done something wrong. 

Back in the homestead of Vigo, I saw Steve Patterson and some other American GKN people this week. It was quite a relief to speak American. The Spanish speak good English, but no American. Since I speak Spanish like Tonto, conversations are always burdensome. It is especially daunting when you say things and people start laughing. I recently attempted to make a comment in Spanish about a gage storage area, and actually noted that it was a good place to store a "woman's anatomical feature". The language thing has also rewarded me with some interesting menu selections. I ate octopus twice one day, leading me to wonder what words don't mean "I want octopus". I figure it is just some inside joke among the restaurant people: 

If an American comes in, they get octopus. 
More later. Peace out!
11 julio 1997

Note: All images displayed are courtesy of Google Images. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nacho & the Bull

I recently found some old files from my year in Spain back in 1997 while I was working as a Manufacturing Engineer for Guest, Keen, and Nettlefolds (GKN Automotive). I lived in the Galicia region of north-west Spain in the city of Vigo.

During my time at GKN Indugasa, the Galicia office, I wrote several reports home to my team in the States sharing my adventures. All comic descriptions by me, all images by Google. Below is the first report, written shortly after my arrival in Vigo:

¡Hola, Mi Amigos!

Hello from the land of flamenco dancers and bull fighting. This is the non-formal report on my goings-on. I am doing well here in Vigo.

I arrived safely after a smooth flight only interrupted once by terrorists, who I handily dispensed. My accommodations are nice as I am living in a nice American style hotel (that means I have my own bathroom). I have resumed Spanish classes and get to regularly practice trying to guess what people around me are saying. The sounds "thh" and "rrrrrrrrrrr" abound. Neither of which I have been able to figure where to use correctly.
The people of Indugasa have been very nice to me. I have been paired up with a young engineer nicknamed Nacho. Gotta love that name. His real name is Ignacio Martinez. Nacho must be Spanish nickname for Ignacio, like Bill for William. Next time you see Ignacio Martin, just call him Nacho. That will be a one way ticket to the corner office, guaranteed.

The people in the factory are very accepting as well and are actually quite enthusiastic about teaching me how to learn words and to say them correctly. Today I had an extensive counting lesson with a Spanish Bob Wayne look-alike.
The weather here is comfortable, but it has rained EVERY day. The plus side of all the rain is that the local rivers were all pumped up. I of course had no kayak and just looked. $%&%¿รง*. I was able to go drive around the countryside and to the beach this past weekend and even ventured into beautiful Portugal. And then got lost (no titans of industry in the car this time) and had the pleasure of speaking Spanish poorly to a couple of Portuguese people, who only spoke Portuguese. I pointed a lot. They were very nice and I got found, so all is well. The countryside is as beautiful as the roads are narrow. The driving here is absolutely crazy, much to my liking. Speed limits are ignored and never enforced. All other rules of the road are optional as well.

As I was driving local-style in the mountains, I got to meet a large Mercedes bus as it came screaming around a curve. The country roads are made to hold 1 Mercedes bus and no cars. Needless to say, I got to do some off-roading. I also got to meet up with some oxen and El Torro, the bull. I was driving a red car and I think someone yelled ¡Ole!. It was a tense moment. I would have rather had another bus, because Torro looked pissed.

An old lady with some twigs saved me.

Tell everyone all is well. Big "¡Hola!" to the team back in MTC7 and all the rest of the gang. Sangria for all when I return. More stories later.

Adios, mi amigos.

Note: All images displayed are courtesy of Google Images. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

List of Ithaca Startups, 2015 Edition

Here is my 2015 list of startups based in/near Ithaca, NY:

Agave BioSystems
The American Knitting Co.
Backwoods Techgear
Bio Nexus
Collegetown Cab
Collegiate Sun / The Hardy North
Comet Action Sports
Copper House Coffee
DataPoint Labs
e2e Materials
Emmy's Organics
Fibonacci Sequence
Firelight Camps
Gene Network Sciences
Hybrid Silica Technologies
International Climbing Machines
Incandescent Software
Ithaca Builds
Ithaca Hummus
Ithaca Voice
Kreyol Essence
Merryweather Outdoors
Motion Intelligence
North Sea Resins
Nova Speech
Party Headphones / Audiarchy / Eversound
The Piggery
Red Tail Hawk
ReMarkable Paint
Seraph Robotics
Ship Index
Sound Reading
South Hill Cider
Spider Holster
Standard Hydrogen
STREAM Collaborative
Subversive Malting and Brewing
Super Pulse
Synergy Marketing Solutions
Tech S2
Think Topography
UR Path
Ursa Space Systems
Weaver Wind Energy
Wicked Device
Worthy Jerky

Notable departures from the list: Congratulations to Push Interactive on their acquisition by GORGES, Inc.!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Walking Advice

Britnell Ventures CEO Sean Neville came to speak to my entrepreneurship class at Ithaca College. Usually that's a situation where the guest stands in front of the room and talks.

The Standard Stance

This time we decided to mix it up a little by making is a walking session. Though it was a cold day, it was sunny and clear.

Walking Clears the Head

We toured the new Athletics and Events Center and other buildings on campus. While we walked around campus, student entrepreneurs took turns sharing their business pitches with Sean, and discussing his thoughts on next steps.

Walking with our Feet, Talking with our Hands

We visited the Handwerker Art Gallery. Students talked about the inspiration for their business ideas. And the canvas they use is the Business Model Canvas.

Other Canvases

Finally, we strolled by the frozen water fountain. With cheeks rosy but energy refreshed, they also talked to one another and shared the feedback. Much of the learning comes from their peers as much as guest speakers.

The Smooth Ice is Like a Blank (Business Model) Canvas

Thanks Sean!. The students remarked that it was one of the most memorable guest speaker experiences they had been a part of.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I snuck into a college faculty meeting; Here's what I learned goes on there

I have been moonlighting as college faculty on and and off for the past 7 years. I've mainly focused on teaching my classes and working with my students, without getting involved in the inner workings of the school. This year my role at Ithaca College expanded and I decided it was appropriate for me to get more involved. I was surprised and impressed with what I learned goes on at these (seemingly) super secret meeting. The student version of myself thought that these meetings were completely different.

When do we talk about making tests impossible and failing all the students?

Here are the topics that were not covered:

  • That kid with the hair.  What's his deal?  Let's conspire to flunk him.
  • Synchronicity: How can we make all homework and exams due at the same time?
  • Let's compare lists of students to flunk.
  • The worldwide shortage of A's.  What can we do to award fewer of them.
  • Can we make classes start any earlier? How about dawn?
  • How to speak in the most monotone way possible to induce sleep.
  • That kid with the weird clothes.  What's up with him?  Let's definitely flunk him.
  • How to make that screechy chalkboard sound.

Instead they talked about things that were actually useful to students. Including:

  • College is expensive. What can we do to make it cheaper?
  • Helping students find the right degree to fit their interests and strengths.
  • Staying current with the needs of students.
  • iPhones: How to better use the technology that students already love to teach better.
  • Writing better letters of recommendations
  • Improving the MBA program
  • Recruiting the best students from High School and Freshman who are still classified "Undecided"
  • Working with other schools across campus

Huh. Who knew?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

I went to Class and a Scavenger Hunt broke out!

There's an old joke that goes something like this: "I went to a boxing match, and a hockey game broke out!". Here's how I went to class, and a scavenger hunt broke out.

Recently the founders of Campus Pursuit, Scott and Shachar, came to speak in my entrepreneurship class at Ithaca College. At the beginning of the presentation, they asked everyone to download the app onto their smartphones. My English teacher would call that "foreshadowing".

Get your scavenger shoes ready!

About they time they were wrapping up, everyone's phones started buzzing. It was the Campus Pursuit app alerting us to the fact that the day's prizes had just been hidden, and they showed the clues for where. The students said "Can we take a break and see if we can go find them?". How could I say no?!

One of the teams found a $15 gift card for the Boatyard Grill!

Shachar swears, SWEARs!, that it was not intentional. Here is his blog post on the event. Regardless, it was a slick move. Nice job guys.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Winning is in the questions

Ithaca College hosted its Fourth annual Business Idea Competition last week. 12 teams of student entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to a panel of industry professionals, competing for a chunk of the $7500 in total prize money. Teams had 4 minutes to present their idea, followed by 4 minutes of questions from judges. What you often see in events like this is that they are often won or lost in how well they handle the questions.

The fastest 4 minutes of a startup

Although the ideas presented addressed a variety of problems, many teams were presented with similar questions:

1. Have you talked to potential customers?

This one can be a red flag. If you haven't talked to any potential customers, how do you know you're providing something people will pay for?

2. When you talk to potential customers, how much money do they say they would pay?

This one can be surprisingly difficult to answer. I’ve seen presentations where students price their product/service contrary to what a consumer would actually pay.

3. How will you expand or repeat business?

This is a classic "what's next" question. A business relies on recurring sales. We also want to know that you're thinking of how the business can grow.

4. Any regulatory issues?

Depending on the idea, legal regulations could be a real hurdle to tackle. Prepare to look into the full extent of those regulations, any associated costs, and consider whether or not certain aspects of your initial idea can be changed to alleviate some of the legal red tape you could run into.

5. What is your revenue model?

This one is tougher than it sounds for some companies. A common error I often see for software is "we're going to sell ads". The reason this is a problem for most new companies is that ad rates for online and mobile are so low that you need to have a massive number of users to make money this way. It's great for Facebook, but the other 1MM apps in the Apple app store need something more.

6. Have you talked to industry professionals?

This falls into the "do you know what you don't know" category. If you don't have significant experience in the industry you're going into, then please talk to someone who is in that industry.