You’ve seen some interesting stuff about BroadbandRI in this blog, but I’d like to tell you about the most interesting thing to-date, and it’s something with which you just might want to get involved. I’m partnering with Kelly Ramirez, of Social Venture Partners RI to implement an Online Business Incubator pilot program for the RIEDC and BBRI. We’re calling it OBI, and it aims to provide a one-stop online website for urban microbusiness entrepreneurs. OBI’s goal is to help RI’s under-served microbusiness community and the ambitious people within it, start and grow their own businesses. It’s going to aggregate everything they need to develop the skills and knowledge to start and grow their business successfully.
OBI’s unique because it combines interactive access to information and tools, as well as interactive access to experienced business mentors to help the entrepreneurs apply the information to their business. Finally, OBI is forging extensive ties to RI’s established business community to help sustain these small businesses long term.
These microbusinesses are very small, created and operated by individuals, usually from the owner’s home or a small neighborhood location. They typically don’t have access to traditional financial and commercial resources. Microbusiness entrepreneurs are not typically trying to get rich, but are trying to establish a free and independent lifestyle for themselves and their families.
OBI benefits the participating entrepreneurs because the interactive access makes it easy to get the help they need without cost or taking them away from their business to physically go to meetings. Access to the OBI website is free, and anyone can get the site’s basic business content and information.
Those interested in OBI participation will be able to learn about the program and assess how they might benefit from it. After completing a flexible enrollment process, OBI participants gain online access to the intermediate business content (financial, planning, marketing, operations, web presence, etc.), tools (Chat forums and Google Apps for word processing, messaging, calendar, conferencing, etc.), and the mentors available during the for the 12-week program. We expect to test the OBI website during December, and hope to go live by the end of January.
We’re looking for highly-motivated entrepreneur participants, with clear ideas about their goals and the business they want. They should be very interested. If they need help starting that business, or if started, growing it. A motivated and focused participant, with a strong desire to learn and grow, will fit best into the OBI program. The initial OBI participants will be the success stories that help us recruit additional OBI participants later on.
We’re also looking for help, so if you’d like to be a mentor (3-5 hours a week), or provide some help to these start-ups, please let us know. You can get more information by emailing me, Rob Panoff at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kelly Ramirez at email@example.com. Thanks, and may the entrepreneurial force be with you!
It's just over one month away from the third annual Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire, and Kipp Bradford and I are once again working with the great folks at WaterFire to pull this event together.
The original Maker Faire (which is put on by my employer, O'Reilly Media) started in 2006 in San Mateo (right near San Francisco International Airport), and gets better every year. With about 20k attendees the first year, Maker Faire Bay Area has grown to 100k attendees in 2011. It's huge. And on top of that, Maker Faire Detroit and World Maker Faire New York are in their second years.
These tens of thousands of attendees come to see robots, life-sized games, science projects, kinetic art, human-powered rides, electronics, but also to think about reuse, sustainability, and education.
Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island is one of several Mini Maker Faires: there's North Carolina, Ann Arbor, and many more.
And now, it's easier than ever to make your own Maker Faire. In the true DIY spirit, MAKE has created a guide to making a Maker Faire, which includes lots of planning tips, ideas for what works, and information on the (short) licensing agreement you need to agree to in order to use the Maker Faire name.
This year, Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island takes place on September 10, 2011, on Steeple Street during that evening's WaterFire. It's free to attend, and it's free to exhibit. If you have a project that you'd like to exhibit, please use this form. Maker Faires are made of makers!
And if you have any other questions, comments or suggestions, please contact me.
On April 1, 2011 Broadband Rhode Island, an initiative of the RIEDC, convened over 80 stakeholders throughout the state for the first Broadband RI Forum.
Representing diverse interests and points of view, each with a stake in the future for creating a better RI, these thought leaders gathered to better understand the implications of an enhanced broadband infrastructure, digital literacy and increased adoption throughout the state.
Broadband Rhode Island, an initiative of Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC), is funded through December 2014 by the State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program (SBBD) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The initiative focuses on broadband mapping and broadband planning in the State of Rhode Island. Programs will address public awareness and education about broadband and study and develop plans to increase adoption rate and broadband usage across all aspects of our lives including in our homes, schools, businesses, libraries, healthcare facilities, public safety and government.
I found my inspiration for Community Camp when I ran into a friend in the aisle of the Farmers' Market in Pawtucket.
We struck up a conversation about the artists who succeed in selling their art as well as holding down jobs and raising families. It occurred to us that these micro-businesses benefit from reaching a global audience online as well as from the patronage of local consumers.
Business owners may be hesitant about an online presence. The fact is that the internet is a crucial vehicle for the growth of any business. Social media and online marketing has become one of the most effective ways to maintain the human quality of a business, enabling person-to-person connection in what might have been merely a faceless transaction.
With this in mind, I invite you to Community Camp to share knowledge and ideas about marketing, social media, sustainability, and local activism.
The recent cold snap is a sharp reminder that winter is truly here and food donations are needed more than ever. Last year's Geeks for Good food drive collected 334 pounds of food and $150 in cash. We hope to double those figures this year!
Please join us and bring a package or two (or three! or four!) of non-perishable food items (most needed list here).
RI is hosting the first New England-wide Startup Weekend on OCT 15-17th. Bryant University is hosting, and providing a unique FooCamp (bring your tents) environment to practice your startup chops.
Register at the New England Startup Weekend site. There is a big push to get college students, and we want to balance that with experienced tech and business folks who want to get their startup on.
What is Startup Weekend?
Startup Weekend recruits a highly motivated group of software developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists, industrial designers and more to a 54 hour event that builds communities, companies and projects. It is an amazing opportunity to connect with other passionate and skilled individuals, and perhaps even find a co-founder or two to transform your idea into reality.
Simply, individuals form teams around ideas on Friday night. By Saturday they are designing both a product and a business model, and by Sunday teams have built a prototype and a company pitch. On Sunday evening the teams pitch to a panel of judges, prizes are given, and confetti drops from the ceiling.
OK, so why should you spend your weekend at Startup Weekend New England?
1. It's intensely fun. What's better than going from idea to prototype and company story in 54 hours, with cool motivated people and free food? OK, I'm sure you could make up something, but I'm guessing it's not happening on the weekend of Oct 15th. Startup Weekend is a good time.
2. It will get you started on your "back pocket" idea. You know you have one. We know you have one. Come test your idea out, see if other people see the value, and maybe rally a team to make some progress. Even if your idea doesn't get chosen (SUW'ers vote with their feet at the end of FRI night) you'll get some good feedback and mentally move forward that million dollar gem.
3. It will build your network. You'll meet 60+ other entrepreneurs, from all ages and backgrounds, both business and tech. There will be guest speakers, judges, and the StartupWeekend organizers (both local and global). That's a lot of people to spend "quality time" with. Many SUW'ers from other cities keep their network going well after the event has ended.
4. You will find and validate cofounders and employees. Around all those fellow travellers? Guess what. One of those folks will be that cofounder that you've been searching for, your next rockstar university hire, or maybe the person who will hire you.
5. If you are an experienced entrepreneur, you will get better at what you do. SUW is not just for first time entrepreneurs or college students. For experienced entrepreneurs, SUW will take you out of your rut, let you exercise new skillz (been meaning to show off your RubyonRails?) and try different team approaches. Plus, we know you've got ten other ideas that you just haven't been making progress on...
6. If you are a new entrepreneur, you will test your mettle very quickly. No offense meant to entrepreneurship classes, but SUW is where the rubber meets the road for first time entrepreneurs. It's a bit of a pressure cooker, but it will steel your resolve to get your first venture up and running. And you'll learn lots of startup stuff.
7. You will be part of a shared experience across 20,000 people. Not a simultaneous experience, but in the three years since Startup Weekend was founded, they've spread like wildfire across the globe. Over 100 cities in 25 countries, and doubling in event count every year.
8. It works. Why do all those people show up? The idea simply works, and it keeps getting better. Just do a search for blogs or videos on "Startup Weekend experience" and see for yourself. There is a good overview video on YouTube (plenty of user generated content from SUW round the world there too).
Oh, and did I mention that it's cheap? $40, or $25 for students. Bryant University is generously covering all the hosting costs at their beautiful conference center, and will even let you pitch a tent on their campus green (It has the word "camp" in it, after all). So go here (http://newengland.startupweekend.org/) and register. Really, there's no reason not to.