Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pittsblog - Rich people and Nerds, make a good start

Pittsblog I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. They're the limiting reagents in the reaction that produces startups, because they're the only ones present when startups get started. Everyone else will move.
BUNK. There is my knee jerk reaction to a sliver of a longer presentation. I'll get to reading the rest, in a day or so. My off-the cuff rant....

Rich people and nerds would make a good combination for "high teas" -- or "chess matches on park benches" or a fine "lawn bowling" league at the country club. No doubt.

But that combination (Nerds + Rich) is nowhere without another key, ambitions. Rich who don't want to "risk" their "capital" and be on the "offense" only delivers people in nice shoes with fancy hats and garden parties.

Rich with comfort and adverse to risk are part of the problem in Pittsburgh's landscape. All the nerds in the world won't move the idle rich from under their white tents pitched to marvel at the gardens. Getting folks to opt out of their next 'lawn bowling' appointment for other ambitions isn't going to happen.

IMNSHO, there are two types of actions in the world. Moves to protect capital and other moves to grow capital. Its either offense or defense. There are a lot of rich who play defense.

And, isn't that what HEINZ Foundations and folks like Elsie Hillman have done? They put $$$ into "Save Our Summer" a couple of years ago -- so the city wouldn't burn to the ground on some hot summer afternoons when the police and people clashed, if God forbid, the public pools were closed. Few are with ambitions to make big changes or long-term advances. There is a lot of 'feel good' investments in Pittsburgh. Many of these are 'defensive.'

Furthermore, I think that you also need products, solutions and marketplace enhancements in the original statement. Rich folks with nerds are clueless unless they've got something to sell.

This is another area where we fall when a contrast is made with Silicon Valley. They've got iPods, software, routers, and chips to sell. The devices that they need to push out to the marketplace are critical to feeding the economy.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is into this 'service economy' cycle. We take care of sick people. We fix broken bones. We raise our kids. We educate bright students from all around. We hire and stage cultural events.

The heat and passion in the mills where steel was made meant that there was a job to do, goods to deliver, products to push out the door. We were in the marketplace with mission critical tasks to perform, and as the furnaces went to room temperature, so too did our necessary hook to the marketplaces.

A bunch of nerds and rick folks (even with the fire in the bellie) can do all the head scratching they want -- calling for RFPs or grant proposals -- but that isn't going to get it done.

Again, we see a platform with two legs -- and its two or three legs short of being viable.

Finally, for MM, or the original author, where is the orginal report? Thanks for sharing an excerpt, but I'd be happy to toss more remarks if the whole package can be revealed. I don't know, it might be out there and I just didn't trip over it, yet.

My hunch: Pittsburgh is light on rich and ambitious people. We got some 'Jim Roddey folks' who love to "do go" -- but most don't really engage.

A lot of rich people is less of a need for a project's success as folks with real products and real drive can and do boostrap, growing from seeds. The rich can provide the oil to slide things along faster and to larger scales.

Without the rich, you've got to be way more patient. The American mindset trap is of a "We want it NOW" attitude. Pluggers don't need the rich and can make do without the available cash on-hand at the early cycles. Sadly, the work ethic to spend a few years or decades to sharpen ideas and projects is not often absent in Pittsburgh.

Smaller investments need to be leveraged again and again, while keeping some of the powder dry to live another day. It might take 20 cycles, not 3, to hit it big. Expect lots of heavy lifting.

1 comment:

Jonathan Potts said...

Mike can speak for himself, but I think you need to go back and read his own response to what he excerpts.