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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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.)


Location, Location, Location

D’ya play poker? Do you stay in for every hand? Of course not. Well, some of you may and I bet you lose a lot more than you win. I have a friend who’s reputed for staying in far longer than he should, and each time asked why he stayed in, he gladly volunteers, “I wanted to see what you had.” Needless to say he’s not a good poker player, and he loses more than he wins but he’s in it for the fun, not the profits, not to improve his game, not for the skill. That’s a choice he makes. The most disciplined skill a poker player can hone in his/her overall strategy is simply knowing when to fold. As sure as my friend’s strategy will drain his wallet, a slower and more frustrating way to lose is by losing ante after ante, bleeding your pockets empty, all while waiting for the right hand – which never comes. And some poker nights go like that. You never really win, but you never really lose – you just bleed out. Yet you can’t win if you don’t play, and you can’t play if you don’t ante. In poker, as in life, there’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution.

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WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – December 2013

Yet another installment of Boston Public Radio’s Innovation Hub‘s Gadget Guru, from yours truly. This is really quite fun. Check it out, two pieces of audio with the second being a web extra. They’re only a few minutes each, so give a listen. Hope you enjoy! Also, below the clips are my full reviews of each gadget; something I might do each time going forward. (Check out previous Gadget Guru segments here)

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WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – November 2013

Another gadget review from yours truly on Kara Miller’s Innovation Hub program on Boston Public Radio. This time I cover the Parrot AR.Drone, the Meade LX90 telescope, and the highly addictive game Dots. It’s a brief segment, only about 8 minutes long, check it out…

You can also subscribe to the Innovation Hub podcast feed here on iTunes and hear my previous gadget reviews here.


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About Ben

I'm Ben Saren and this is my blog. I have another website where you can see my professional bio and stuff like that. If that's what you're looking for just head over to

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