‘Why not Cleveland?’ Road trip pitches Northeast Ohio to Silicon Valley tech execs

… met with executives at Rigetti Computing, a maker of powerful computers; the Founders Fund, a venture capital firm whose portfolio includes Airbnb, …

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River said he thought Silicon Valley needed to know more about the technology assets and opportunities of Northeast Ohio. So he put together a small group that included businesspeople and academics and went west after Labor Day to ask the question, “Why not Cleveland?”

He came back believing Northeast Ohio has an opportunity to grow its technology sector.

“My background, coming from the technology world and spending some time in Silicon Valley, I thought it’d be a really neat idea to put together sort of a delegation to go out west and pitch what we’re trying to do in Northeast Ohio,” he said in a telephone interview, “but then also to listen to some of the ideas that are percolating around Silicon Valley and try to apply them to what we’re doing. It was a great trip, across the board.”

Though Gonzalez may be best known for his years playing football at Ohio State University and in the NFL, he also knows his way around Northern California’s high-tech scene.

After football, he got his MBA at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and then spent two-and-a-half years in San Francisco as chief operating officer for an education management software company, now called Informed K12, before returning to Northeast Ohio. A Republican, he was elected to Congress in 2018, replacing the retiring Jim Renacci.

His congressional status probably made it easier for the group to get in to meet some of the executives. However, Bernie Moreno, president of the Bernie Moreno Cos., who was on the trip, said that “while the businesspeople wanted to talk about legislation, Gonzalez was always quick to pivot to asking that if they were considering expanding into the Midwest, they should be thinking about Northeast Ohio.”

The group spent the day after Labor Day in the technology hot spot, taking four meetings with corporate and financial execs.

“The question that I’ve always had is, ‘Why not Cleveland? Why Not Northeast Ohio?,’ ” Gonzalez said.

He and the others asked that as they pitched the assets of the region and the universities doing high-tech research and graduating digitally prepared students.

“I wanted to make sure that we were starting to get on their radar,” Gonzalez said.

That’s important right now. Silicon Valley companies are decentralizing as the cost of doing business in the San Francisco Bay area only gets more and more expensive.

“Some of these larger tech companies, as they grow and expand, they want to do that outside of San Francisco,” Gonzalez noted. “One (of the reasons is) because the labor market there is incredibly tight. Wages are very, very high, and so they’re looking around the country at places like Pittsburgh and Austin and Denver and Ann Arbor, even at Columbus. Why not Cleveland?”

One reason may be unfamiliarity with the region, said Gonzalez’s travel partner Ari Lewis, a tech investor and partner of the Green Block Group, a tech industry communications consultancy that also has an office in Columbus.

“People need to be educated about Cleveland,” said Lewis, a Case Western Reserve University graduate who splits his time between Cleveland and New York, where he grew up. “A lot of these folks just really didn’t have the information.”

Suzanne Rivera, vice president for research and technology management at CWRU, was glad to have the opportunity to let the tech companies know that her school and Cleveland State University have the faculty expertise and the emerging technology they need, as well as producing quality computer science graduates who could be great employees for them.

On one visit, the group made its pitch to an executive from Opendoor, a company that acts as an online middleman between home buyers and sellers. Rivera said the company is building its computer engineering staff around the country.

“To have an audience with their chief legal counsel and be able to make the argument to her that Cleveland should be considered for their expansion was a wonderful opportunity,” Rivera said. “She seemed willing to consider it.”

In addition to meeting with Opendoor’s chief legal counsel, the group met with executives at Rigetti Computing, a maker of powerful computers; the Founders Fund, a venture capital firm whose portfolio includes Airbnb, Lyft and Spotify; and a group of blockchain firms at Coinbase, a digital currency exchange.

Nigamanth Sridhar, dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Cleveland State University, said one takeaway for him was the advice that Northeast Ohio should play up its strengths in health care and manufacturing. The trip also reaffirmed for him the way local universities are preparing their students for the work of the future.

“It gave us a little more wind to our sails as we work on new and innovative interdisciplinary programs that bring subject matter from multiple disciplines into a single degree program for students,” he said.

Moreno, the driving force behind the upcoming Blockland Cleveland conference to promote blockchain applications, said he was energized by what he saw on the trip and that he believes there is an opening to grow an innovative, digital economy in Northeast Ohio.

Gonzalez agreed, adding he thinks the region needs to make more of these pitch trips to Silicon Valley.

“You will never convince me that Northeast Ohio can’t participate in this and thrive in the innovation economy, in the software space,” he said. “We have everything you need. We have incredible universities, we have people who are graduating with the skills that are needed. But, you know, we need to go out and get it. We actually have to go out and make our case and fight for the business.”

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It takes 6 hours to cross Missouri by train, but proposed Hyperloop could make trip in 30 minutes

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – A Missouri Hyperloop could become a reality within the decade, taking passengers from Kansas City to Columbia in just …

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – A Missouri Hyperloop could become a reality within the decade, taking passengers from Kansas City to Columbia in just 15 minutes and to St. Louis in just half an hour.

But even with the future coming so quickly, some travelers are holding on to the past.

Riders of the Amtrak Missouri River Runner can already crisscross the Show-Me state, with two trains running at the same time dividing Missouri in half.

It’s a long trip, taking nearly six hours for passengers making the entire journey, though that could soon change if the people aboard the Amtrack trains instead take a Hyperloop car.

The high-speed system is a vision from tech giant Virgin and could take passengers across the state at speeds hitting 600 mph.

KC Tech Council President Ryan Weber believes the system could be in place within the next decade, though rail travelers like Sue Gailey are still a bit skeptical or even scared of the technology.

“The speedy train is frightening to me,” Gailey told KCTV5 News. “It’s like, ‘Oh my God,’ except, I guess it’s on the ground. I don’t know. I could get used to that idea.”

Other passengers, like first-time Amtrak rider Kevin Winterscheidt, are looking forward to a trip in the fast lane.

“I think it would be neat,” Winterscheidt said. “I’ve watched several documentaries of other countries that have them and I think it would be awesome.”

Still, there are concerns with this futuristic rail system. A study of the potential hyperloop would require the use of eminent domain by the state, forcing some private land owners to give up property for the project.

A state-wide feasibility study last year showed the Hyperloop can be constructed right along I-70, and supporters say the numbers make sense.

The projected build cost would be $30 million to $40 million per mile, meaning the 240 mile stretch between Kansas City and St. Louis would have a price tag of $7.2 billion to $9.6 billion.

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Alabama Commission on Artifical Intelligence Holds First Meeting

On Thursday morning the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence met at the Capitol. In the regular session earlier this year the Alabama …
Posted: Sep 12, 2019 1:04 PM CDT
Updated: Sep 12, 2019 5:57 PM CDT

byJerome Jones

On Thursday morning the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence met at the Capitol.

In the regular session earlier this year the Alabama Legislature unanimously passed a measure creating the commission.

Alabama is now one of only three states that have such a commission.

The commissions mission is to ” advise the Governor and Legislature on all aspects of the growth of A.I. and associated technology.

The 18 member commission is composed of ten members appointed by the Governor, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Information Technology, two members appointed by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, two members of the House, and two members of the Senate.

In addition, two members from private sector were appointed at Thursday’s meeting.

Appointees must have professional qualifications in Artificial Intelligence, workforce development, technology, and/or computer science.

Six subcomittees were established at Thursday’s meeting, as well as election of a Chairman and Vice-Chairman.

The Commission is to release a public report on its findings and recommendations by May 2020.

“In a few short years, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies will transform business, create new jobs, and grow our economy,” said Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills).

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Penn State student teams awarded $25000 for work with artificial intelligence

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student teams used artificial intelligence to create more efficient ways for students to study, find a job and …

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student teams used artificial intelligence to create more efficient ways for students to study, find a job and assess the housing situation. Revu, Resilient Resumes and LionPad received a combined total of $25,000 from the Nittany AI Alliance to continue working on their solutions, which were developed during the 2019 Nittany AI Challenge. The funding was awarded on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at the Nittany AI Challenge Celebration Event.

Revu, awarded $15,000:

Christina Warren from the College of Arts and Architecture and Mathew Mancini from the College of Engineering created Revu, a product to keep students engaged when learning from reading assignments by automatically generating multiple choice quizzes to keep them focused while also testing comprehension of key concepts. Future feature implementations will include flash card generation, saving quizzes and notes, and a mode made specifically for instructors. Warren and Mancini also participated in the 2018 Nittany AI Challenge as part of LionPlanner.

Resilient Resumes, awarded $5,000:

Team members who created Resilient Resumes are from several Penn State Commonwealth Campuses: Amie Croteau, Ian Morrissey and Ethan Adams are from Penn State Berks; Bryan Cruz Ulloa is from Penn State Harrisburg; and Austin Tucker is from Penn State University Park. Resilient Resumes is a web application for students to compile their personal information concisely and receive real-time feedback on how to improve their data for their resume. Acting as a support to Penn State Career Services, this app creates a working resume for the student to help land an internship or position after graduation.

LionPad, awarded $5,000:

LionPad was created by Jack Mentch, Neil Ashtekar, Ishan Muzumdar and Nikhil Nayyar from Schreyer Honors College. LionPad provides students with resources to efficiently and comfortably navigate all stages of the housing search process by connecting students with their ideal living situation.

The three teams were chosen out of seven finalists by members of the Nittany AI Challenge Review Committee. Funding was allocated by members of an Award Committee.

Tracey Huston, vice president for Penn State Outreach and a member of both committees, said evaluations were based on the teams’ product advancement during each of the three phases of the Nittany AI Challenge, including use of AI to solve a problem, advance a solution and/or improve a current service, certain product requirement criteria, and a diverse student representation.

“Revu generated support from both committees, based on the product’s potential use by students and instructors to improve the student experience, and the impact it could have on improving a student’s opportunity for success,” Huston said. “Resilient Resumes and LionPad also demonstrated the potential for immediate impact on the student experience. We are so proud of each of the student teams that competed, they all demonstrated a will to succeed and the tenacity needed to balance their studies while approaching a project that can positively impact the world around them.”

Daren Coudriet, for the Nittany AI Alliance, said the challenge gives students the opportunity to work with AI platforms from companies such as Oracle, Google, Microsoft and Amazon and is looking forward to expanding the vision of the challenge for 2020.

“Our top three teams exemplify the innovative spirit of Penn State and provide an exciting glimpse of what is possible with AI,” Coudriet said. “This is particularly exciting as the challenge expands in 2020 to add pillars for health, humanitarianism, sustainability and climate change.”

Students who are interested in working with AI and want to compete in the 2020 Nittany AI Challenge, can participate in several upcoming workshops, including AI Immersion events which are scheduled throughout the fall and spring. The deadline for idea submissions for the 2020 Nittany AI Challenge is Jan. 31, 2020.

  • Resilient Resumes

    Brad Zdenek, innovation strategist for the Nittany AI Alliance; Ethan Adams, Austin Tucker, Bryan Cruz Ullao, Ian Morrissey and Amie Croteau created Resilient Resumes; Daren Coudriet, director for the Nittany AI Alliance; and Tracey Huston, vice president for Penn State Outreach.

    IMAGE: Penn State

  • LionPad

    Brad Zdenek, innovation strategist for the Nittany AI Alliance; Neil Ashtekar, Ishan Muzumdar, Nikhil Nayyar and Jack Mentch created LionPad; Daren Coudriet, director for the Nittany AI Alliance; and Tracey Huston, vice president for Penn State Outreach.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Want to do business in Silicon Valley? Better act nice

CB Insights, a company that performs industry analysis, polled venture capitalists on this question: “Should VCs avoid public criticism of the industry …

[SAN FRANCISCO] The first rule of Silicon Valley venture capital is never insult a startup. Founders are always killing it, disrupting the world or just plain raising the roof.

If a startup is fizzling, shuttering or caught scamming? The socially acceptable response is total silence.

Everyone knows that. Except Jason Palmer.

The startup in question was AltSchool, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed project to turn school into a startup experience. It had just announced it was pivoting out of existence after raising US$174 million.

Mr Palmer is in this field: He is a venture capitalist in Washington, DC, focused on education technology. On June 29, he tweeted that AltSchool was always a bad idea, and he was glad that his firm hadn’t invested in it.

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That single jab at a failed company sent the investor elite into conniptions.

“This is likely the most expensive tweet you’ll ever post,” wrote Mark Rose, at the time a product manager at Google, now the vice-president of product at a biotech startup called Ontera. “That’s the $ lesson.”

Many said Mr Palmer should be boxed out of future deals.

A startup founder funded by Y Combinator, an influential startup training programme and investment firm, flagged Mr Palmer’s firm to his funders: “We might want to warn future edtech founders (YC or not) about their best practices,” Alex Bouaziz wrote on Twitter.

It goes on.

“I wish I could short your portfolio,” Michael Karnjanaprakorn tweeted. He is the founder of Otis, which facilitates investments in art and sneakers.

And on.

“Dude, you realise you are literally the worst,” wrote Steve Cheney, a founder of Estimote, which makes sensors for tracking devices.

Michael Arrington, the pugnacious founder of TechCrunch, added a note of criticism. The co-founder of an e-sports collaboration tool described “putting startups on blast” in this manner as “toxic behaviour”.

Parker Conrad, the former CEO of Zenefits, a human resources startup, who has since started a similar startup, jumped in.

“So easy to say this from the cheap seats. No founder in edtech should ever pitch their company to you again,” Mr Conrad wrote. “It’s so easy to predict something will fail. You’ll be right nine times out of 10. You will never build anything meaningful.”

Inevitably, there was Mr Palmer’s apology. It came in four self-effacing parts, beginning by thanking everyone for the feedback.

“Hi everyone — First of all, I really appreciate the feedback, both positive and negative I’ve received from this tweet all day. I believe in honest, tough conversations, and that’s what all of you have given me.”

After a few more apology missives, he apologised to the founders, who poured six years of “their heart and soul” into the project.

Mr Palmer believed he would save his investors money by not investing in a startup that would have lost it. He was right. But in the cacophony of venture capitalist boosting, that became about emotion, and even soul.

A founder’s soul is a surprisingly common discussion topic in the tech world, often as a defence of a particularly egregious news cycle. In social settings, debate over a company like Facebook will quickly get personal, cutting to the question of what its chief executive feels in his or her heart.

Mr Zuckerberg, when caught in a scandal, rinses himself in apologies. He does this so often that The Washington Post made a graphic of his heartfelt mea culpas.

The rhetoric of soul and heart is a sleight of hand to distract from the boring truth that tech companies are, of course, for-profit corporations.

After Mr Palmer’s tweet, he was shaken. He said he had no idea how upset everyone would get and that he had no intention of hurting anyone.

“It’s been overwhelming,” he said.

He sent out a carefully worded email a few hours later.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to think harder about all the people who might be affected by any tweet,” he wrote. “Founders, teachers, employees, students, they’re all real people with real lives, feelings and stories. They’re much more than 280 characters.”

By not knowing the rules, he showed exactly what those rules are, and just how the Silicon Valley positivity machine runs. For venture capitalists, Twitter is a place to sell. It’s a place to talk up portfolio companies. It’s a place to perform the industry pastime of “thought leading.”

Venture capitalists do not think of themselves this way, of course. CB Insights, a company that performs industry analysis, polled venture capitalists on this question: “Should VCs avoid public criticism of the industry / startups?”

The result was clear: 88 per cent said investors should feel free to criticise.

So, two months after the tweet, how is Mr Palmer feeling? The outrage that came both in public and private did not, in the end, oust him from the industry. He continues to invest.

For him, it was “a reminder”, he said, that tech entrepreneurs truly believe they are saving the world. He wanted to be clear now that he truly believes this, too. They were right. His tweet was very bad. He has been chastened.

“Tech entrepreneurs are just as mission driven as people in non-profits,” Mr Palmer said. “They believe they are helping the world just as much as non-profit founders.”

But of course most startups fail, he added, a little quieter, and the tech world ought to learn how to talk about failure.

“In fact, most high-risk startups are non-profits,” he said. “Effectively non-profits.”

His public messages now accord with Silicon Valley venture capital norms.


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