Thriving Startup Community in Raleigh-Durham

There’s something about Raleigh-Durham’s high-tech startup scene that’s reminiscent of how the greater Boston area’s high-tech startup scene felt to me in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While I was 15 years younger then, and certainly more naive than I am now, that energy in Boston and Cambridge in those days was unmistakable and those who were part of the scene then will remember it as fondly as I do. Raleigh-Durham feels very much like that to me now and I suspect that other smaller markets comparable to Raleigh-Durham might feel the same way, as they each go through their own startup renaissance.  There are high degrees of enthusiasm, passion, and intelligence with very little arrogance, inferiority complexes and entitlement. While the startup ecosystem here has all the right pieces in place (world class educational institutes, state and local policy, public and private investments, infrastructure, talent, etc.) some for longer than others, the area needs a bit more time and cultivation until it gets to the next inflection point. There’s even a (mostly) friendly competition between Raleigh and Durham that adds to the area’s development.

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The monarch climbs

Butterfly Brain

If someone had told me a year ago that a year later I’d a) be living in North Carolina, and b) hanging out in my backyard tending to a garden, c) feeding peaches to deer, d) identifying more species of birds than I’ve ever known, I’d have laughed at you. Suffice it to say, I’ve embraced the change! Change is good. I don’t care much for comfort. It leads to predictability and that’s boring. And as boring goes, check this out. (I know I know, it’s a bit much but there’s no shame in my game.) We planted milkweed and it grew taller than me, something we were never successful at up in Boston for some reason. I’ve long wanted to attract monarch butterflies, and create an opportunity for new monarchs to hatch. Migrating monarch butterflies, after all, are in grave danger and that’s not good for our ecosystem. All that said, we had the great joy of watching caterpillars grow, gobble up our milkweeds, form their chrysalises, and then hatch into monarch butterflies. Sure, this is a grade school science experiment but the metamorphosis is truly a miracle of nature, and we were enthralled with it. Without further ado…

It started with a caterpillar, gobbling up our milkweeds, then there was a chrysalis, and then the monarch emerged, and took form, and climbed, and spread its wings, and flew. The whole process was 30 days, with the final stage (from hatching to flying) being nearly four hours. For all the photos see here on Flickr.

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And a couple time lapse videos, from my YouTube page

 

(Photos taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark III with EF100mm L Macro IS USM lens. Time lapse made in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.)

 

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Judging The Stevie Awards

Hollywoods’s awards season is upon us, from The Golden Globes and the SAG Awards to the Oscars. While these awards honor and celebrate film and television, businesses vie for a different kind of award this time of year: The Stevie Awards. Companies large and small, from startups to multi-nationals compete in more than 90 categories for the honor and public recognition of their accomplishments for sales, customer service, and innovation.

The company I work for, Litle & Co., has been honored with three Stevie Awards in years past. This year The Stevies (as they’re more casually known) asked me to chair the final judging committee for Best New Product or Service. Nearly 50 Finalists made the cut in this one category, spanning a broad range of industries.

One of my duties in chairing this committee has been to recruit other judges. I aimed for a well-rounded, diverse group of judges who’d bring a variety of perspectives and expertise to the committee. I’m very proud to have brought together the following friends and associates, and am truly grateful for their participation. The judges for the 2012 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service Best New Product and Service category are as follows:

 

The gala dinner and awards will be held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on February 27th. I’ll be there and can’t wait to meet the finalists and the winners as well as other judges. See you there!

 

*Disclaimer: Litle & Co. is a customer of a couple of the Finalists, two of which I personally use in my day-to-day job, so I’ve recused myself from judging those specific companies or subcategories.