Tuesday, June 23, 2009

[Updated] Criticism for Nashville on lips of Techie leaving town

[Updated 12:33 p.m. CDST] Whew! Didn't quite see that comin'. The news that Luke Kanies (left) is pulling up his small taproot here in Nashville and moving Reductive LLC to Portland, Ore., struck us as further evidence of how very portable is technology, and the tug of places that were home for our alma maters, etc. But, when we caught Luke on the phone this morning, after being alerted to the move by Geert De Lombaerde's re-post from xconomySeattle, we found ourselves a little mouth-agape at his candor and even a seeming tinge of bitterness, given, as he put it, he "had worked pretty hard to build a network" in Nashville, ultimately finding what he described as only a few geeks he could occasionally have a beer with, as opposed to the tech-event-a-day atmosphere of Portland. Ultimately, he told VNC, Kanies, who turned 34 yesterday, said it was actually Nashville's comparatively meager geek community, and what he termed the "not very liberal" culture of Nashville that "drove us away and drove us toward Portland." It was clear he could have gladly listed other deficiencies he perceives, but he had a meeting to take. [UPDATE: He called back, as promised, and, when asked whether the Digital Nashville intiative, NTC efforts, the Geek Breakfast and other initiatives had not worked for him, he responded with less of an edge, that those things had "made things 'better', right, but there's a difference between 'better' and 'good', and I think the technology community in Nashville is just a ways behind..."] The widely known Unix system administrator turned entrepreneur, author of the Puppet server-admin tool, and configuration-management expert and his wife have sold their home. Spouse Cindy, he said, has a Ph.D. in cancer biology from Vanderbilt University, and they have two 9-month-old twins.

67 comments:

Jtodwork said...

While not a member of the Nashville Technology Council, it is disappointing to lose tech companies. Our community has our fair share of geeks (and I know they like beer), so this is disappointing that we were not able to connect him with the larger community. If you need to connect in Nashville, we can help.

Rex Hammock said...

While my first inclination is to say 'don't let the door hit you in the ass,' I completely understand Luke's need to move to a place where the wind is at the back of tech-oriented companies. (Although the Bay area or Seattle would have made more sense.) When his company is successful, he may realize some of the benefits a state with no income tax, like Tennessee, might offer budding entrepreneurs.

Milt Capps said...

As I indicated in my post, I was a bit surprised by the seeming intensity of Kanies' comments, given the heightened networking and programming recently available through various groups. Reflecting on it further, however, this may reflect the fact that 'busyness', alone, does not equate to weaving a more vibrant tech and venture culture for Nashville. There's still a need for something deeper. One thing that comes to mind: Several years ago, NTC took some solid steps toward creating a Software Developers Roundtable, and its early outings were well attended by c-level tech execs and the energy was palpable. With a succession of changes at the NTC helm, however, the SDRT essentially evaporated. Time for further thought.

lak said...

I guess I should be more careful on the phone when sleep-deprived. I certainly didn't mean to sound bitter.

That being said, moving West is definitely the right move for my family and for Reductive Labs. It's up to you whether you want to see this as sour grapes rather than as a learning experience for Nashville, but I worked hard to build my company and a network in Nashville, and it's very hard.

And for the record, one of the things that made NTC less valuable was the fact that it was full of executives and recruiters and had almost no entrepreneurs or actual technology people.

Milt Capps said...

Thanks, Luke, I had no doubt your comments were made in good faith. Milt

Freddie O'Connell said...

I personally think that part of the issue is the post-dotcom era of muddying the waters of what the "technology" and "geek" communities are. Corporate IT directors, web designers, and social media gurus tend not to mix well with GNU/Linux-based hackers, who are capable of ranging the LAMP stack from bottom to top. If there's a large community of such people in Nashville, I'm missing it, too, despite having lived and worked in the community for more than a decade. I think a vibrant tech ecosystem needs all of the above and more to reach critical mass, and Nashville has simply suffered a shortage on the Linux geek end. Most of the ones who exist aren't starting companies; they're keeping existing companies running.

Also, there is clearly a dearth of truly tech-oriented start-ups in Nashville, and we don't have an educational technology corridor anything like what exists in the Harvard-MIT space or the Bay area. I don't think Luke was looking for a horde of Microsoft-certified partners to jump start his company, and my exposure to our healthcare sector indicates that they generally prefer to play it safe with regard to enterprise technology.

Having shared a beer a number of times with Luke, I know well how hard it is to try to build an open source software company in the Nashville area. It requires more patience and commitment than in a lot of other parts of the country.

Freddie O'Connell said...

I personally think that part of the issue is the post-dotcom era of muddying the waters of what the "technology" and "geek" communities are. Corporate IT directors, web designers, and social media gurus tend not to mix well with GNU/Linux-based hackers, who are capable of ranging the LAMP stack from bottom to top. If there's a large community of such people in Nashville, I'm missing it, too, despite having lived and worked in the community for more than a decade. I think a vibrant tech ecosystem needs all of the above and more to reach critical mass, and Nashville has simply suffered a shortage on the Linux geek end. Most of the ones who exist aren't starting companies; they're keeping existing companies running.

Also, there is clearly a dearth of truly tech-oriented start-ups in Nashville, and we don't have an educational technology corridor anything like what exists in the Harvard-MIT space or the Bay area. I don't think Luke was looking for a horde of Microsoft-certified partners to jump start his company, and my exposure to our healthcare sector indicates that they generally prefer to play it safe with regard to enterprise technology.

Having shared a beer a number of times with Luke, I know well how hard it is to try to build an open source software company in the Nashville area. It requires more patience and commitment than in a lot of other parts of the country.

Kate O'Neill said...

Having lived and worked in San Jose, Portland, and Chicago and now working on a web services startup here in Nashville, I can certainly see validity in some of Luke's criticisms: there's no way even to compare Nashville as a tech center to the likes of SFO/SJC, or even, to a lesser extent, Portland.

But Nashville has something those towns don't, and that's the strong sense that we geeks and entrepreneurs need to stick together. I have never experienced the sort of cooperation and "coopetition" that goes on within the web/tech crowd in Nashville. The truth is there are just fewer people playing in the space here. But amongst those who attend the social functions and participate in the networking groups, there's so much cheerleading, so much willingness to refer business, and such a general sense that everyone benefits from each others' successes that it's a little hard to fault Nashville for any difficulty in building a network.

I only just met Luke at one of the latest social events, but I'm sorry to see him and Reductive Labs go. It's a loss for Nashville.

On the other hand, there's certainly a great tech scene in Portland and I'm sure everyone involved will be happy with the move. I wish everyone involved the best.

Ed Dodds said...

One, it's disappointing that geography still matters when dealing with net-enabling technologies; time for the tech world (and the rest of the world) to adopt results-only work environments. http://caliandjody.com/blog/

Two, to Rex's point - GOSCON takes place in DC but is organized by Deb Bryant's Portland efforts http://www.bryantsblog.com/ So fedgov clients aren't so bad to court.

Three, to Freddie's point - new LAMP user group trying to launch - http://bit.ly/Nashville_LAMP

Four, some LinkedIn.com groups which touch some "Open" and "Networking" themes:

ebXML group:
ebXML group on LinkedIn.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/3697/558490764F04

Medical Banking group:
To promote the latent integration of banking technology, infrastructure and credit with healthcare administrative and clinical operations on LinkedIn.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/74285/183D9F20CD6D

Open Education group:
Open Educational Resources group on LinkedIn.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/3792/2D78871E6B23

Open GRID group:
This is a group to promote the intersection of open source, open standards, cloud, grid, mesh, portable data, semantic web, web services and high performance computing.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/48334/30F0096943F3

Open HealthCare group:
This is a group to promote the intersection of open source, open standards and HealthCare.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/3102/63B2164D6495

Open Journalism group:
Promoting distributed and open news.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/83191/1AB6226B21C9

Open Mobile group:
For those interested in Open Mobile solutions (open source, open standards) and convergence.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/61471/3BA5D1187C3C

Open VOIP group:
Boosting open source telecomm and open voip standards such as enum, sip, etc
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/45575/01AA294A5522

Project Net-Work group:
Promoting the adoption of distance education, telemedicine, telework, ip-based collaborative work spaces, and results-only work environments.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/65992/4EB9AF50D90E

Technology Nashville group:
Promoting a technology economy in Nashville and Tennessee. Networking tech professionals, angels, venture capitalists, public and private institutions, start ups, etc.
http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/86813/285B3901FAF9

Jtodwork said...

I always welcome input and we are working hard to fix some of the issues you identified for tech entrepreneurs. Yes, there are shortcomings, but we need to work together to fix them. Read Milt's post on the Entrepreneur Center. Get involved, help us improve the situation. It's easy to throw stones, tougher to work together to fix the problem.

I can tell you that the Nashville Technology Council is comprised of 23,000 tech workers through our member companies, so yes, I would take exception to the comment that we only have executives and recruiters. Could it be that you haven't been to one of our events in some time?

I have started and/or led four tech ventures from Nashville. I haven't had the same experiences. I have always found great tech talent and management within the city. I wouldn't live or run a business, anywhere else.

Milt Capps said...

Interesting exercise: Take this link to the beginning of VNC coverage of these issues, and work your way forward...whether it's the issue of 'availability of capital' and entrepreneurs' complaints...or the breadth and depth of the talent pool, every issue has at least two sides...continued discussion will ward-off complacency.

jasonrmoore said...

I really appreciate Luke's willingness to give feedback as to why he has decided it is best for his business and family to move. Nothing helps a community (or business) grow beyond its current limitations better than an exit interview.

There has been a lot of bad blood stirred up by this article which appears to have been unintentional.

The first question that needs to be asked is, "What are you (we) going to do about it?"

If you are disturbed by this departure from Nashville, what are you doing to improve the situation?

While I feel some of the conditions cited by Luke have been vastly improved in a short period of time in Nashville, it is clear that we have not reached the point where we need to be. Nashville's tech/geek community is in its infancy and has huge potential.

What are you doing to make sure that potential is reached?

Venture Nashville said...

Thanks, Jason. You co-led a successful Startup Weekend here, in October. What do you think Nashville should do?

Milt Capps said...

If you read the Xconomy|Seattle article that started this, you noted that Luke's firm got a cool $2MM from Palo Alto-based True Ventures VCs, which surely lubricated the path. So, we can discount the whole thing, as some would, or we can consider there are "still" both capital and culture issues worth examining. We have, as Jason said above, made great strides, but there's always more to do. Eh?

Ed Dodds said...

Since VCs appear to prefer to never have to make more than one airplane hop between their corporate headquarters and the companies into which they invest, maybe it's time to commission a study to find VCs who are more comfortable with remote collaboration tools (yes, the results-only work environment thingie again). You've got all the strategy/management media going gah gah over this web 2.0/wikinomics paradigm and very few money firms which evidence they have a clue about it. Perhaps an emphasis in Africa, Asia, South America, etc. rather than being trapped by the artificial confines of the US tech funders. Just a thought. Anybody got contacts from outside the USA?

Michael Summar said...

Personally, I can see both sides of the coin.

I don't know Luke (or even knew of him before this article), but it seems like the original flirtation and move to Nashville was based almost solely on his wife's pursuit of her PhD at Vanderbilt. I patronize virtually every tech related mixer/forum/event in town (perhaps I have a drinking problem) and I've never met Luke.
Perhaps his heart isn't into making Nashville his permanent home which is completely fine. I definitely can not fault anyone for wanting to move home or even closer to home. It is exactly why I choose to do what I do based in Nashville. Nashville is home to me and I can't imagine doing it anywhere else.

I also definitely understand where Luke is coming from in terms of the lack of "geeks". The Nashville tech community is light on pure tech geeks - hardcore developers and programmers. Nashville is flush with designers, social media folks, and "strategy" people. I can honestly say that while attending all the various Nashville events over the last few years, I've never once had anyone introduce themselves to me as a hardcore LAMP guy - or any other variation thereof. Does that mean they do not exist here? Absolutely not. Perhaps the proper forum just hasn't presented itself to this subset of the Nashville tech community.

I think the efforts that Tod and the NTC are making are paying dividends in terms of both tech community building and retention. Other groups like Digital Nashville and Geek Breakfast are also providing some solid networking opportunities when they did not previously exist. We won't ever compete directly with the Seattle's, Austin's, Bay Area's of the world, but I think the foundation is being laid for Nashville to be a solid tech town where things can happen.

Nicholas Holland said...

Ah, so many points - so little time :)


Nashville is doing a fantastic job of building the tech community and I'd be surprised if someone could point to another city with as much momentum. All one has to do is think back 2 years ago and you'll quickly realize just how much things have changed for the better.

Luke said he didn't mean to sound 'sour', so I'm guessing that 90% of the inferred negativity is off base. Plus, you gotta know Luke to understand that his delivery could be taken wrong if you're not used to talking to him.

Per some of the comments, I agree that we don't have a vibrant Linux community. But that doesn't take away from our Vibrant Web, Healthcare, Music, Microsoft, and other technology facets. I'm sure Portland is weak in certain areas (Healthcare Technology?) and we could just as easily be reading an article of someone leaving Portland to move to Nashville :)

Its clear why he moved - he received funding. This shouldn't reflect poorly on Nashville's tech community, but it may bode poorly for our VC community.

There's also a neat factor at play which is best illustrated by high school athletes. A recent study interviewed a series of heavily recruited athletes and polled them on how they felt towards their choices. For the most part, the athletes were evenly divided in how they felt about both places. However, once they chose a final school/team, the researchers interviewed them again and saw their loyalty to their choice increase significantly and the non-choice decreased significantly.

The Morale? The $2MM can make a new city look pretty awesome and your old city look pretty lame. It also helps that MOST people who get funding are semi-rock stars, so I'm sure Luke is enjoying a lot of ego-stroking.

Let's keep focusing on our momentum. Soon, the NTC will launch the Entrepreneur Center and it should go a long ways towards helping new startups find their bearings. If you visit Digital Nashville or the NTC Calendars, you'll see that there are MORE THAN ENOUGH events to work on building your technical network.

I'll let others debate the 'money' side of this. In my opinion, technology funding options are pretty slim - but I'm sure Tod Fetherling is working on that :)

Great debate and the comments to this post are really stellar!

Chris Wage said...

Perhaps I'm over-simplifying, but knowing what I know about Luke's skills, technology and business, I have no doubts that Portland is a good choice for him over Nashville -- anywhere on the west coast would be.

There are different types and quantities of technology aggregated in bigger numbers on the west coast, and there are thus different communities that have developed around them there -- communities that all stand to benefit from the sort of technology that Luke and reductive labs have developed..

Nashville doesn't have that.

Why is that a problem?

I think we're falling victim here to the usual Nashvillian self-consciousness about what we're not, rather than focusing on what we are.

Nashville isn't silicon valley, and it never will be. I don't mean that to sound defeatist -- it could some day be something greater, but whatever shape it takes will be decidedly different

Anonymous said...

Having known Luke for a couple of years at least, he can come across as quite intense. I have seen that interpreted as bitterness by others, but he is actually a very positive guy. It's not everyone that can work for as long as he has on a single vision with no immediate rewards.

I have heard him explain his reasons for moving and what it seems to boil down to is a lack of skills that he needs to grow his company.

Until Nashville is able to attract the kind of skills that startups seem to thrive on there will be few successful "web 2.0", for lack of a better term, startups in town.

What Nashville has plenty of, is "enterprises" and NTC events are filled with executives who have no direct technology experience unless it's the stuff they used 20 years ago.

The geek socials seem to be filled with hipsters showing off their iphones and no conversations about emerging technologies. I'm not talking about blogging as an artform yada yada type of conversations, but real technical conversations with substance.

Notice the lack of participation in technical groups such as NLUG, NashDL, and Alt.Net to name a few. These are the guys that are talking about emerging technologies and they're lucky if they can fill a table, let alone a room. Mention free beer though and the "cool kids" come out of the woodwork.

Luke has been thoughtful about his move and he didn't do it in bitterness. He has been planning moving to a more technology friendly city for a while and Portland has not always been his first choice. He is trying to grow his company and has accepted that moving to Portland is the path of least resistance.

I wish him the best of luck.

KEW said...

I too have found the Tech community here in Nashville lacking in depth and breadth. However, it is probably impossible to compete with the West Coast corridor from SJ to Seattle. I spent 20 years there, after my educational stint in the East. Moving here in the early 2000's, I found a lack of innovative and creative infrastructure that was substantial. That infrastructure requires slack resources, and Nashville businesses and VCs are focused on ROI almost exclusively. Silicon Valley is awash in slack resources for innovative (here, they are considered whacky) ventures. Not a large percentage of the total, but enough to keep geeks/nerds/utopian libertarians and liberals alive. The educational establishment here also does not have enough juice to support this sort of infrastructure. That does not mean that in cannot be started, but it requires much more gambling with resources than seems prudent in the Middle Tennessee culture.

mark montgomery said...

very interesting commentary above, and the best news is that people are paying attention and discussing. i just want to make a couple points:

1. i ran a shop of LAMP geeks at echo, and while it was hard to build that team, we did it, and they were amazing! evidenced by emma (another great LAMP shop) hiring most of the team in one fell swoop. those geeks built an enterprise level LAMP platform that served out over 125mil pages on a rolling 30 day period, and 35 terabytes of data. not bad for a bunch of hillbillies...

bottom line, if you want it bad enough, you can have it nearly anywhere.

1a. i LOVE geeks, true geeks, but lets face it...getting them to respond to email, much less attend a social event, is unlikely! the fact that these folks are not showing up at mixers is not at all surprising to me, they are hanging out in the basement gaming or discussing details of the new Star Trek movie online.

2. i have been in discussions with many entrepreneurs and geeks interested in Nashvegas (including a super geek from Google wanting to relo to Nashville, yes, Nashville - because of his attraction to music, and to our city - culture and vibe has significant value...) and if we play our cards right, more of these pings will be coming from the coasts...

3. we have a mayor truly interested in this problem, we have a motivated chamber (Janet Miller leading the charge - and trust me, i have not historically been a fan of the chamber) that has had some big wins relocating companies here recently, Tod at the NTC is a smart guy, and there are a small group of folks working on the entrepreneur center who get it and have a track record of succeeding... (and on that note, most folks are great armchair quarterbacks and bomb-throwers, if that's you, get off your butt and help...)

4. everyone here knows we have no substantial venture community, admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing it. we need to recognize that if we all pitch in and help, all boats will rise in this tide. its time to put aside petty protectionist agendas...

5. we need an overall plan, and then, we need commitment and focus to that plan. bottom line, the reason that other cities have flourished building infrastructure that supports the things we want for Nashvegas is because they had/have a plan, and they are EXECUTING on that plan.

to Luke specifically, i'd say nick nailed that situation. move to for the wife, move fro for the dough.

out.

Chuck Hutsell said...

There are some great comments in this thread. I am a Nashville native and have spent my entire professional IT career working for Nashville-based companies.

For the past 10 years I have devoted my career to helping companies grow by recruiting IT professionals for them. I can tell you that I talk to individuals from most major metropolitan areas all over the country every week. It is rare that I have any difficulty attracting candidates to our city. Nashville offers an incredible environment to raise a family; Now that we have the Titans and Predators and The Gulch and all of that, we're starting to expand our cultural boundaries. I think we still have quite a lot of work to do in the area of portraying Nashville as a progressive city culturally - but we are most definitely moving forward, which is better than being stagnant or moving backward.

I think part of the challenge to geek growth is the lack of a significant concentration of new tech startups. These are typically the types of companies that embrace leading-edge technologies aggressively. The established, larger companies in the well know Nashville verticals embrace new technology as well, but for business reasons they sometimes cannot do so quite as aggressively.

As for creating more involvement from the existing geek community, I'm sure some of them will drink beer, but put something together that involves Red Bull, Monster, or RockStar and an xBox and they will all show up! :-)

Brian Dailey said...

I'm a hardcore LAMP guy that just moved here from NYC about three weeks ago. I wouldn't have done so if the community didn't look as vibrant as it does. Some of the user groups apparently have issues with attendance, but as others have pointed out, this tends to be due to the fact that Nashville is a family-oriented town where developers tend to go straight home after work. I imagine attendance is a perpetual problem.

Still, as a gun for hire it looks to me like there's plenty going on here. I've already been to Digital Nashville, the Geek Social, and plan on attending the Geek Breakfast and other events.

There's no way the city can truly compete for VC money with hubs like NYC, but the trade-off is living in such a manageable city with a lower cost of living. That's why I'm here, and I'm sure there are others that feel the same way.

lak said...

I just wanted to point out, too: the timing of the move and the investment are entirely coincidental. I didn't move because I got the investment, although there's a good chance I got the investment because I'm moving (as someone else mentioned, VCs don't like flying, apparently).

lak said...

Anyway, thanks to everyone for the conversation, and I really do hope Nashville continues to grow and prosper. It's a great city, and it's advanced by leaps and bounds in the decade I've been back.

I'll be back plenty of times, since I have other family in town, so maybe I'll still have an opportunity to help pull Nashville's tech community further forward. :)

Bruce said...

Here's a relevant fact(?) about VCs and their 'required' proximity to their portfolio companies. Believe it or not an entrepreneurship academic research paper (mentioned within the last week on PE Hub), still in working draft form, has demonstrated that the portfolio companies located the greatest distance from the VC tend to be the best performing firms. This discovery is obviously going to produce loud protests from the most provincial VCs. One of the suspect reasons for the vast difference in performance is that the distant portfolio firms suffer from much less VC meddling in their operations - which, also, is going to ignite some loud protests.

Steven said...

Ed Dodd, You mention all the linkedin groups. What good does a group do when many in the tech industry would shun the service you want to build on. Social networks for any of the geeks I know are a by product, and not part of a web portal. I have looked personally into the invites I have had for linkedin, and feel it hasn't been worth the potential spam like orkut was back in the day.

jtodwork, you make a comment that screams marketing spin, bloated useless statistics. "Nashville Technology Council is comprised of 23,000 tech workers through our member companies". As the cynical person I am, I think, that doesn't mean you have a single technical person who shows up to your meetings. The quote actually does more to validate the person you were trying to provide rebuttal to. You have member companies. Those companies only are members due to some higher official that has decided to join. From there those officials are more likely than not to be far removed from real technical knowledge. You comment would be like Boieng claiming to have millions of customers annually, while true that millions a year ride in a Boeing aircraft, it doesn't mean they bought anything from Boeing.

Of course all this is not exactly on topic for Luke's leaving, nor is it on topic for how to recruit or keep talent in Nashville.

Freddie O'Connell said...

For those speculating about Luke's motives for living/working in Nashville, you should know that he's a graduate of MLK right here in town. He's pretty much a native who left for school, returned afterward, and has now left again.

Jackson Miller said...

There is no need to take Luke's criticism personally. As another geek/entrepreneur I think he is absolutely correct.

Nashville has an opportunity to continue to build momentum. We have lots of "potential", but we do not have the infrastructure in place that more established tech centers have. I mean every thing from lawyers, accountants, VCs, hosting, marketing, creative, and engineering talent. Sure, we have some of all those things, but it is sparse.

The way I see it there are top tier cities for tech entrepreneurship like the Bay Area, Seattle, and Boston. Then there are the places challenging those cities like Austin, Denver, and Portland. Nashville has a long way to go before we can compete with those secondary cities.

I know in Denver there is a monthly New Tech Meetup that regularly draws 150 engineers to talk about what they are working on. The events like Geek Breakfast and the various mixers are great, but they are mostly "geeks" in the social media sense. To me, it seems the Nashville tech community is still a little light on tech.

There are people who are working hard to improve the viability of technology and lots of them have posted in this thread. I don't want to be a voice of negativity, but I am a little jaded.

Scott Kozicki said...

Don't interpret Luke's "style" as bitterness. Interpret the content of his words as truth. And sometimes the truth hurts.

I've known Luke many years. He worked at one of my startup companies and I've tried to recruit him to several more. I am honored and lucky to call him a friend as well as a colleague. I've learned a tremendous amount from him and I am very sad to see him leave on multiple levels. We've had many conversations about it over the years. I wish Nashville had 1000 Lukes. Yes, I do realize what I just said. =)

But Luke's not the only person who's left Nashville for the reasons he cites. Nashville loses LOTS of great entrepreneurial talent. Particularly in the tech community. I know of six people who have left (or are in the process of leaving this month) just in 2009. All of whom are young, bright, energetic, talented, and will absolutely make a difference in our world.

The activity level of tech and entrepreneurial groups has definitely risen lately. The Middle Tennessee area has FAR more resources and acumen when it comes to starting a business than it did when I started my first ones in the 90s. And while that's good, the reality is that not a lot of those resources helped Luke. Or a lot of other fledging entrepreneurs.

Seed capital? No one could understand what his market was or the opportunity, or realize that simply investing in smart people will eventually pay off in multiple ways. So he bootstrapped.

Access to talent? There are some really smart and talented people in Nashville, but they need to eat and put a roof over their heads. No seed capital means not being able to attract them. Even when they are offering to work at pauper wages when they could be making $100's of thousands of dollars. Add to that a spirit of jealousy that seems to pervade dealings in this town, and you divide, not unite talent. So he recruited some talent out of this area.

VC capital? Nope. Had to go to the west coast, like so many other startups have had to do in this town. Which is ridiculous because studies have shown that returns in the south east are actually higher for deployed capital than in other regions. Guess who's making those returns? Firms not in the south east.

There are many people who have worked really hard in this town to put together strategies, structures, evangelism, and investment in our tech and entrepreneurial communities. But we keep trying to emulate Silicon Valley, Boston, or Seattle. We are NOT any of those places. And we can't compete apples-to-apples with any of those places. We are Nashville, and we should be focusing on what makes Nashville great with the things that are unique to Nashville. Focus on what Silicon Valley wishes it could do 5 years from now. Not what they did 5 years ago.

In Luke's case, I know this was a family oriented decision and not just purely business. In today's world, location is much more about work/life balance than simply the best business deal.

So before anyone can soften the blow of his reaction, or back peddle, or offer up lots of examples countering his points (I realize that I am late in saying this), look in the mirror first. Because only when you see and accept the truth, can you begin to take steps to truly change it.

Scott Kozicki said...

Don't interpret Luke's "style" as bitterness. Interpret the content of his words as truth. And sometimes the truth hurts.

I've known Luke many years. He worked at one of my startup companies and I've tried to recruit him to several more. I am honored and lucky to call him a friend as well as a colleague. I've learned a tremendous amount from him and I am very sad to see him leave on multiple levels. We've had many conversations about it over the years. I wish Nashville had 1000 Lukes. Yes, I do realize what I just said. =)

But Luke's not the only person who's left Nashville for the reasons he cites. Nashville loses LOTS of great entrepreneurial talent. Particularly in the tech community. I know of six people who have left (or are in the process of leaving this month) just in 2009. All of whom are young, bright, energetic, talented, and will absolutely make a difference in our world.

The activity level of tech and entrepreneurial groups has definitely risen lately. The Middle Tennessee area has FAR more resources and acumen when it comes to starting a business than it did when I started my first ones in the 90s. And while that's good, the reality is that not a lot of those resources helped Luke. Or a lot of other fledging entrepreneurs.

Seed capital? No one could understand what his market was or the opportunity, or realize that simply investing in smart people will eventually pay off in multiple ways. So he bootstrapped.

Access to talent? There are some really smart and talented people in Nashville, but they need to eat and put a roof over their heads. No seed capital means not being able to attract them. Even when they are offering to work at pauper wages when they could be making $100's of thousands of dollars. Add to that a spirit of jealousy that seems to pervade dealings in this town, and you divide, not unite talent. So he recruited some talent out of this area.

VC capital? Nope. Had to go to the west coast, like so many other startups have had to do in this town. Which is ridiculous because studies have shown that returns in the south east are actually higher for deployed capital than in other regions. Guess who's making those returns? Firms not in the south east.

There are many people who have worked really hard in this town to put together strategies, structures, evangelism, and investment in our tech and entrepreneurial communities. But we keep trying to emulate Silicon Valley, Boston, or Seattle. We are NOT any of those places. And we can't compete apples-to-apples with any of those places. We are Nashville, and we should be focusing on what makes Nashville great with the things that are unique to Nashville. Focus on what Silicon Valley wishes it could do 5 years from now. Not what they did 5 years ago.

In Luke's case, I know this was a family oriented decision and not just purely business. In today's world, location is much more about work/life balance than simply the best business deal.

So before anyone can soften the blow of his reaction, or back peddle, or offer up lots of examples countering his points (I realize that I am late in saying this), look in the mirror first. Because only when you see and accept the truth, can you begin to take steps to truly change it.

Rex Hammock said...

[part 1/3]

What a thread. If nothing else, Luke provided a great platform for some good airing of issues. This is great stuff. If I was in Luke's situation, I would have made the same decision. But I would not have communicated it the same way. So here are some reactions since I posted my first comment on this thread way up at the top, and came as close as I ever to do "lashing out" at someone -- when I slung a tweet in Luke's direction yesterday.

1. Luke is obviously a great developer/coder/geek, but he needs to work on his media-relations skills if he's going to build a big company. Sorry, diplomacy counts until you've become Steve Jobs. He could have easily focused on all the advantages of being in Portland -- and by "not saying it" implied the relative deficiencies in Nashville for doing what he's trying to do. That would have been much better than putting his comments in the form of answers that sound like a list of everything he can think of to piss off those who have worked hard to put together things like a bar-camp attended by 850+ and a pod-camp that gets larger and larger.

2. I tried and failed to start a tech business in Nashville. (Fortunately, I've found better success with a company that obsessively uses, develops and understands technology, but that isn't a technology company). The timing of that startup sucked so I doubt being anywhere else would have helped. But I can't tell you how many times I thought how easier my life would be if I lived in a place where I didn't have to educate potential investors on concepts like search advertising (it was the year 2000). I had to spend lots of money to bring developers into town and traveled from coast-to-coast talking with different "providers" of technologies that all had to fit together.

The startup failed, but now that I think about it: One of the people who spent time in the Nashville foxhole with me during that startup (and bust) took the experience and helped form an angel investor initiative. Another two of them started what is one of Nashville's bonafide tech-start up success stories of the past decade. Another one is helping to run a high profile tech company in town. At least two people moved to the Bay area and have 2-3 startups (one sold to Intuit) under their belts. Nearly everyone who worked there is doing something cool, now that I think about it. So I know it wasn't just the lack of "talent" here.

However, the experience convinced me that if I was ever going to be involved in a tech related business again, I would have to develop a presence in tech communities outside of Nashville. I spend lots of time in the Bay area, DC and New York -- and have spent a decade cultivating close relationships and friendships in those places because I don't want "being from Nashville" to be an issue. And I don't want to have to prove in an elevator pitch that I am "legitimate."

[continued]

Rex Hammock said...

[part 2/3]

3. True story: A year or so ago, I was in New York to moderate a panel at a PaidContent.org conference jam packed with big VCs from both coasts and lots of Web 2.0 names you know. During a break I was getting a cup of coffee and bumped into a Nashvillian who has proven that a tech startup can be dreamed up here, financed here, and knocked out of the park for a grand slam here. But there he was, listening to what "the experts" were saying. Geez, I thought to myself: he's probably the savvyist person in this room.

4. Nashville can be a tech center, but if you're going to start anything that hinra of "social media," it better make sense for your social media to relate to something that's elevator pitch easy to make sense to someone outside of Nashville who is going to be thinking while you're pitching, "Nashville, country music, isn't Graceland there, what's it got to do with tech?" So here are your choices: music, healthcare, bass-fishing/hunting, football, did I mention music? Anything blue collar or "middle America" might work if you've got more than two minutes. Just do something that makes someone who lives 50 miles from an ocean feel like they could never "get." (However, most people who run successful startups are from places like Nashville.) This isn't true for pure tech startups -- just the consumer or business-to-business content-related kind.

5. If you're a geek living anywhere in the universe, you know the music industry is broken, even if you're not in the music business. When you read that ASCAP wants to charge people when their phone rings, you know that the music industry is beyond repair. But hey, you live in Nashville and ASCAP isn't just some letters: It's a giant building on music row probably filled with people who probably, in all liklihood, are more intelligent than the entity for which they work.

I wrote a post a few weeks ( http://www.rexblog.com/2009/05/29/19490 ) about about why Nashville should be the place where the music industry is blown up and rebuilt. Do something that helps destroy the record labels and music rights folks while increasing the financial benefits flowing to the creators and performers of music and you'll put Nashville on the tech map.

[continued]

Rex Hammock said...

[part 3/3]

6. Next to last thing thing: I've been a member of the NashvilleTech Council for nearly a decade and I support everything they are trying to do. But a "community" of geeks is never going to be drawn together by them -- That organization should be serving the IT community (which is separate from the geek community) and pure-play technology companies, especially in the healthcare arena. I love you guys. Thanks for all you do.

But the notion of having some type of "startup council" or whatever that is part of anything Chamber of Commercey or Tech Councilish is not how these things usually work in other places. I've been to bar-camps in different places and went to all the early bloggercons and they were total anarchy compared to the slickly produced and corporate sponsored events we have in Nashville. (Which are wonderful, I'd like to add.) But frankly, the professionalism and slickness of Nashville barcamps/podcamps seems to attract more marketing people who want to learn how to use technology to market to people -- which is fine -- than they attract geeks. Let me say once more, I applaud and respect the folks who put their energy into producing them, but they're not where geeks are going to congregate (geek breakfasts are the exception, probably because they are totally devoid of any form of obvious corporate sponsorship, unless you consider Dave Delany a walking billboard for Griffin.)

7. Bottom line: I probably support every thing Luke said, but I still think he sounded bitter and petty in his approach. But, hey, I probably sound that way in these comments -- the great thing is, it kicked off the excellent thread. Did I mention music?

Venture Nashville said...

This may be the best panel discussion on Tech I've attended in the past ten years. Milt

Chuck Bryant said...

Wow. This conversation is a quite a gift that Luke has given us on his departure. You are all invited over to my place for beers and a LAN party!

Flippancy aside, I'm glad to see this kind of forthright discussion happening. Clearly, the advancements we've made in pulling together the tech community in Nashville over the past few years have inspired some enthusiasm for seeing much more of our potential as a tech center achieved. I agree with much that has been said and am currently experiencing some of it as a partner in a tech-oriented startup.

As a member of the team planning the next BarCamp, I'd like to encourage all of you to bring your enthusiasm, experience and insight to BarCamp, along with your favorite Linux/LAMP/tech/programmer geeks. BarCamp is an open conference -- the sessions we present are the sessions that you initiate. I've heard more than a few people say that they wish BarCamp featured more programming and app development sessions to go with all of the social marketing sessions we've had in the past. Maybe this is the year for that to happen. I will definitely be reaching out to those folks to be speakers -- as I'm asking you to do right now.

Joe K. said...

As someone who has lived in and out of Nashville for the past three decades, I'm encouraged by what I see here in town today, and in the wide range of comments to this post.

After growing up and going to school here from 1980-93, I returned and worked at a startup from 96-98, left to chase bigger startup dreams in California and Asia, then returned in 2006 for more school and to stay.

While this departure may temporarily rankle those of us who are making efforts to build a more tech-oriented and a more entrepreneurial city, I look around and see geeks and technology professionals from far-flung places like Johannesburg, New York, San Diego, Australia, and well, even Pittsburgh. My guess: we're winning more than we lose, even when we all agree that we can still do better.

Nashville, while not perfect for everyone (as has been duly noted), has a lot of promise and opportunity--and it's ours to make of it what we will.

driver49 said...

The essence of Milt's post re: Luke Kanie seems to be this sentence:

"it was actually Nashville's comparatively meager geek community, and what he termed the "not very liberal" culture of Nashville that "drove us away and drove us toward Portland."

Others have already done a great job of expounding on the up-and-down sides of Nashville's "comparatively meager geek community." I don't think I can add much to that particular discussion. I was in fact grateful to read some of the very sincere and informative things that have been posted among these comments. We may lament the loss of a driven entrepreneur like Mr. Kanie, but it also seems to me that his departure and the responses it has generated are having a galvanizing effect on our "meager" community.

What I want to take issue with is the "not very liberal" culture part.

I take issue with a LOT of the so-called "conservative," "buckle-of-the-bible-belt" mentality that yes, we do find here in Nashville. And I've been to Portland a few times (my wife's two 30-something sons live there) enough to appreciate that Portland is reflective of the the "liberal" (i.e. 'blue state') environment of the state of Oregon. Nashville, on the other hand, is something of a "blue state" island in the middle of a very, very red state.

Guns in bars? Guns in the state parks? Sure, I can see where somebody might conclude that Nashville is a hillbilly, redneck outpost of 2nd-Amendment waving NRA "cold dead hands" Bible thumpers.

I've lived here 15+ years now, longer than I've lived ANYwhere in my life (I moved here after 14 years Hawaii, and I did not move here for the sailing, snorkeling, and surfing...). I was involved in a "tech startup" before the term "tech startup" was part of the vernacular. But I have never, ever found myself philosophically or ideologically isolated as a "liberal" (or sometimes as a "libertarian"), and have always been able to find warmth and acceptance among like-minded people from all walks of life. So I'm sorry, the "not very liberal" assertion is just not holding water for me, not even compared to Portland.

I can't cite the study now, but recently there was a report that Nashville is quickly rising as a destination for young, recently graduated young people in a variety of fields. When my step-sons move to Portland, they cited the fact that so many of their generation were getting their feet on the ground there. Now it seems Nashville is beginning to find similar cache' with another emerging generation.

I'm sure we will miss Luke Kanie, and I am sorry to see him go -- much like I have been sorry to see dear singer/songwriter friends leave Nashville when they could not get their careers off the ground in Music City. But others will take his place, and I think we will yet see Nashville establish itself as a unique star in the global tech firmament.

Tyson Tune said...

Having events like Geek Breakfast are a good thing, though they do tend to bring out the "cool kids" as someone mentioned above.

The real issue with those types of events are lack of exposure. It's hard to get much more than social media types to events when the only real way to discover them is through Twitter.

On the flip side of that, the reputation and presentation of the Technology Council is slick and corporate, which brings in recruiters and execs, but scares off most geeks.

The fact that a lot of people on this thread refer to it as the best discussion of what is going on in our community that they have had in awhile says a lot about the lack of connection between even the motivated people in the community.

To my mind, the first step towards evolving the community is getting the word out that it exists at all. Motivated people will find it, the posts here prove that. But some type of visible presence that people might find when they aren't looking would go a long way.

Bruce said...

I take exception to the Blue State comments that have been made. I just returned this evening from a reunion get together here in People's Republic of Massachusetts (the bluest of the Blue) for a blockbuster high tech firm from the 1990s. {Most of the attendees are 'retired' because the employees made so much $$$ in the IPO and the subsequent $7B acquisition by another firm. Virtually everyone there is as RED as they come. I expect and hope that many of the 20-somethings will eventually figure out the benefits of unleashed capitalism. Currently (at least in Massachusetts) there are so many green tech, high tech, med tech, and bio tech firms fleeing offshore (thank you, Obama) that there is going to be scant offerings for the upcoming generation of wannabe Socialists. The smarter ones will eventually figure out the economics, which play as important a role as the code writing.

Ed Dodds said...

RE: Rex and where Geeks congregate and Milt's best tech panel discussion: I've argued for a long time that Nashville has an extremely geo-locked mindset when it comes to meetings/networking. We never put together any event that doesn't waste at least 30 minutes car time to and from. Has anyone heard of "lunch and learns: with GoToMeeting, WebEx, DimDim, Soaphub, IRC, SecondLife, etc.? This would be an excellent way for NTC and the Geek domains to mesh and member firms could take turns sponsoring them. FYI, I participate in Ontolog Forum activities and they accomplish everything online with mediawiki w/ purple numbers, conference calls and chat transcripts (always archived for non-attenders to catch later -- and not feel excluded). They do have one face2face per year.

RE: events in physical space and lack of exposure: I'll mention John Kellar's heavily Microsofty devLINK ( http://www.devlink.net ). Knowing John -- if LAMP types want open source sessions he'd be all for offering them if folks would help connect him with speakers and sponsors.

Question: Does anyone at Oak Ridge National Lab do any kind of remote work outreach to Nashville?

KEW said...

I too find this thread fascinating. I want to add a comment about family support.

I taught at Stanford and lived in Palo Alto in 2007-08. My son, who would have been a junior at Brentwood HS (one of the best publics in the state) went to Gunn HS. BHS cannot compare in its quality to Gunn. The students were good, but the teachers were excellent. BHS has a hand full at best of good teachers, and maybe 1 or 2 excellent teachers. It seems more to do with the environment in which the teachers teach than the skills of the teachers.

That year away really was a wake up call for him. The reason I mention this is another major problem we have in Nashville and surrounding areas -- our K-12 education is not strong. My son experienced K-5 in a school with 51% Title I kids, and got a better education than my daughter at an elementary school in Brentwood. I have also lived in Oregon, and the public schools in Portland are much healthier than in Metro, and the surrounding suburbs offer excellent schools.

Although the COL here is lower, there is no question that other important elements of family life are also lower.

KEW said...

Creative tidbit... Here is an example of the infrastructure in Silicon Valley that needs some sort of an equivalent here. Underwritten by industry (SAP) as well as other smaller grants from companies (IDEO, HP, Xerox, Sun, etc.) Includes not only students and faculty, but also employees from various companies in the Bay Area (they are given time to teach and mentor at the University). An equivalent around health care or music would be kinda cool!

d.school

Rex Hammock said...

It might be of interest to some in this thread to read this short piece on The Atlantic's website by Richard Florida. [ http://correspondents.theatlantic.com/richard_florida/2009/05/rock_royalty.php ] It's a follow-up to a cover story on why places become "The Silicon Valley of [fill in the blank]..." Nashville actually *is* the Silicon Valley of music *business* and the Silicon Valley of a slice of the health care industry related to for-profit management businesses. We're also "the Silicon Valley" of evangelical Christian media. I'm in none of those businesses, but if I were putting together a tech startup in Nashville, I'd be looking for opportunities that investors who understand those industries will "get."

Ed Dodds said...

RE: KEW - DSchool and Rex - Music

Somewhere among these concepts there must be a synergy we can forge to produce two pipelines (healthcare, music) which provides better family support (education enhancement) and a student mentorship toward a digitally evolving geeky industry sector for which there is a market (there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between a NEED and a MARKET -- in at least one case here, possible stimulus package monies for hc).

Curriki
http://www.curriki.org/
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1826931

DSpace
http://www.dspace.org/
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=112567

NTC T3 Initiative
http://www.technologycouncil.com/create/t3/
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=116927

Open Course Ware
http://www.ocwconsortium.org/
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1833346

Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business
http://www.belmont.edu/mb/

Digital Summit
http://www.digitalsummit.org

TED
http://www.ted.com/

TEDMED
http://www.tedmed.com/

Perhaps NTC T3 could host a public wiki to continue discussions/plans/pr toward these kinds of goals?

FWIW, I post on these topics under Technology.Nashville at Conmergence Blog and will begin using the #TechnologyNashville hash for twitter and identi.ca

Mitch Canter | studionashvegas said...

Chuck: I am so there ;)

At any rate, what we all need to realize is that whether or not the geek community is or is not "meager" isn't the point. It's that someone has perceived that it is.

Perception is reality.

I am a WordPres (Open Source CMS/Blog Platform) developer, and I work with people all over the country. The first things they bring up when I tell them where I'm from is "country music" and how beautiful the countryside is here. People have perceived Nashville as backward for years now. With the breakout of the non-country music scene here (Gospel/CCM and Hip Hop are largely to thank for this) people are seeing what's under the surface, and that's a great start.

Will we be able to compete with Atlanta, Portland, and other "tech-meccas" around the world? Who knows. To be absolutely cheesy, we (the community) are the only ones that can decide that.

I think our biggest problem comes from the echo chamber we've built. We know, see, experience, live, breathe, and love the community, but no one outside of Nashville gets to see that. They still see 10 gallon hats and green grass. And even some of our very own can't see the forest for the trees (or lack thereof). We bust out of that, and start showing other cities and companies what we're up to, and that's when we can turn our cowboy hats in for pocket protectors.

(and yes, I know that not all geeks wear pocket protectors... it's a metaphor :D

Milt Capps said...

(Thanks, again, everyone) Note: While 'we, the Community' have much we can and will, no doubt, do, many experts in seeding communities such as we might envision contend that, invariably, a community (including SiValley) is born when one or maybe two visionaries achieve business breakthroughs, creating a Big Bang of sorts. In Memphis, we might argue it has been Pitt Hyde. Here, we might speak of Jack Massey and the late Dr. Frist... So, "another" question becomes, Where th' heck are those heavy hitters who, after they've made it big, 'just can't stop' supporting entrepreneurs? Yes, this is largely a rhetorical question...

Will Bridges said...

Having lived both in Portland and in Nashville I whole heatedly agree with Luke. While I've had no problems establishing a tech business in Nashville it's only because I haven't relied on Nashville as a source of customers and developers that I've been able to thrive.

It's damn near impossible to establish a good amount of friends in Nashville and I've commented on this before. In the first 6 months I was in Portland I had a half dozen good friends and another half dozen good acquaintances. I've been here in Nashville for nearly 4 years and I have 3 good friends and one of those are geeks. I have a lot of acquaintances but it's been impossible or I am the one always going out of my way to do anything with them. Portland was nothing like that.

Trying to do anything in the tech environment locally is tricky at best. You have to be very well known or people ignore your effort. I tried to do the Ruby on Rails meetup group for a while and it was completely wasted effort on my side. I tried again to help later and key people ignored me and wouldn't even answer my emails. I won't be disrespected in that fashion. It's like herding cats...

Further, we've tried to partner up with some local design firms and development firms to share work and help each other. The response locally has been tepid at best. There's a sense of mistrust towards us that I've never had to deal with before. (I've been an entrepreneur and developer 10 years now.)

I want to invest in the community and build local partnerships but I've went out of my way too many times for my taste. I won't invest my time and effort when I feel it's not respected or returned. I'm the first to return any love or respect I get but the environment in Nashville has to change. If it doesn't I'll be right behind Luke because I absolutely love Portland. Nashville is my second favorite city and in many ways Nashville has been good to me. I'd love to see it turn around.

As it stands today I don't really want to raise my son here and I don't see much opportunity for building local client base or finding much in the way of local talent. Plus, Nashville is a bit conservative for my taste as well. But I always hope for change and am willing to participate in any change that has hope.

Will Bridges said...

Decided to write an article inspired by this article and it's conversation and wanted to elaborate on my own comment.

http://www.invisiwill.com/2009/06/25/railing-against-nashville

Chuck Hutsell said...

Will: I was going through a rough spot in life's road once and a good friend quoted a Latin phrase to me. I can't recall the Latin, but the translation is:"Don't let the bastards get you down".

I hope you choose to stay here, raise your son here, and help impact even more positive change than what is obviously (and not so obviously) taking place here. Look at as a green field with some cow patties - and you stepped in a few. So what? It is still a green field furtile for the planting. But if you drive away you'll never sow therefore you shall not reap - at least not here anyway - and that would be unfortunate for all.

Julie Moore said...

First off, I want to thank everyone in this thread for this great open and candid communication being expressed here.
But I am reading this as a BarCamp/PodCamp Nashville organizer, I am thinking "Wow I wish we could get everyone on this thread in a room at the next BarCamp and have this discussion."
I am a former Dell Employee and having worked in the real geek industry (datacenter and now software development company), I realize as Will Bridges said, you can't depend on Nashville for business. What we really need to be talking about is how to attract the VC's and in turn the great talent that follows. Then we can start depending on each other for business.
The biggest problem that Nashville has is keeping great talent in Nashville. What is T3 really doing?
Another question/statement that I have is that how do we get the real geeks to come to BarCamp? How do we get in depth Tech? That is really the true nature behind BarCamp, we just have figure out how to get the real techies to come. That is where great ideas are born!
Anyway, any feedback about what we can do as an event for BarCamp would be fabulous - you can find me on twitter @jrmoore13.

Kate O'Neill said...

Just want to add, since several people have commented that it's the "cool kids" who are going to the Geek Breakfasts and geek socials and whatnot: a good segment of the folks I meet at the geek events are developers and IT folks. Not saying they're not cool :) but the social media and marketing folks are certainly not the only ones present.

At Geek Breakfast this morning, for example, we batted around ideas for projects we could involve the community to build, such as various open-source APIs, and we discussed starting an informal round table about tech tools. I was involved in a fairly long conversation about customizing Wordpress themes and what needs to be done to which PHP file to make which change. These are not atypical discussion topics.

Maybe that's lightweight tech for many of you reading this, but cut us some slack -- this was at 7:30! -- most of us were just having our first cup of coffee. ;)

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is: if you've never attended one of the geek social events in town, you should definitely give a few a try, and not be influenced by folks who may have just ended up stuck in a boring conversation. (It's bound to happen once in a while, and hey, some of the topics I cited above may strike you as boring. There's always someone else to talk with.) You just might be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to connect with like-minded people.

If you're nervous about showing up and not having anyone to talk to, look for me: tall, dark hair, holding a coffee (in the morning) or beer (in the evening). After all, if I'm convincing you to give it a try, you can blame me if it sucks. ;)

Hope to see you at the next event!

Dave Delaney said...

Wow, what a great discussion. I'm sorry to hear that Luke has decided to move, but I know he's doing what's best for his family. I ended up coming to Nashville because of my family, and I'm so glad I did.

The whole plan with organizing the first BarCamp (Aug 2007) and PodCamp (Feb 2008) was to put Nashville on the digital map. They were to get people talking about what's happening in technology in this city. They were also created to connect disconnected communities.

Geek Breakfast was born (Dec 2007) as a way to keep us together between unconferences. What is great is that GB has now spread to Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin, St. Louis and even two locations in South Africa. This is a monthly event that was born right here in Nashville!

I feel that Nashville is what we make of it. There are plenty of groups popping up for geeks from every corner of the web. It's up to you to get off your derrière and meet the people. It's incredible what can come from networking or whatever you choose to call it.

From successful networking, valuable connections are made. Those connections bring new startups and investors. All of these things will turn more heads toward Nashville as a decent digital hub and in turn will grow our community.

If a group or event doesn't exist that you're passionate about - create it. If you build it, they shall come.

People like J. Tod Fetherling are here to help us. He's done an incredible job shifting the direction of the NTC to open it to a more diverse technological crowd.

If you need some help all you need to do is ask. I was so impressed when I moved here by how warm and hospitable our community is. People will take the time out of their busy schedules to meet you for a coffee, all you need to do is reach out.

Thanks for this fantastic conversation. Safe travels Luke.

Milt Capps said...

Just got off the phone with a keen observer of the U.S. venture scene, who argues "you have to attract [and, presumably, retain] the entrepreneur, before you attract the venture capitalist..." In addition, beyond networking, this fellow suggested there's no substitute for a culture rich in companies competing with talent, stealing from one another's workforce, in a fluid "intense" environment... He also stressed that one key startup requirement is access to middle-management talent who are used to very long days, deferred compensation (options) and the rapid evolutions (as opposed to stasis) of their company from 20 employees to, say, 500... Meanwhile, I guess, Emma-type keggers are good, too. Milt

Sara Carter said...

The discussion on this thread has been great and very enlightening. I noticed a few people mention NTC’s T3 initiative and specifically someone ask the questions, “What is T3 really doing?”

Our greatest accomplishment is when we touch individuals and make a difference in their lives. I read this post and immediately thought of Branden.

“Prior to the seminar I felt a strong sense of hopelessness when considering the job possibilities I will soon be facing. I was even considering seeking employment outside the state. I had no idea there were so many possibilities for me within the state of Tennessee. It is also comforting to know that there are people like yourself who truly care if I succeed in the IT world. I hope to find myself someday in a position where I can do the same for future graduates. Once again, thank you for taking the time to come and speak with us.
- Branden Osburn, Austin Peay State University - Student

Since January of 2008, over 600 students and unemployed workers were connected with T3 through events and programs. At every opportunity the topic of available jobs, what the technology industry in Nashville is like, and why they should choose Nashville over other cities is addressed.

Some highlights:
• 2 Job Readiness Seminars have been put on (Austin Peay/Trevecca). These are run by Business Leaders and were attended by over 70 technology students.
• 6 Guest Speaking Engagements (MTSU (2 events)/Lipscomb/Belmont/Nashville State (2 events)) have been held reaching over 150 technology students.
• 1 InternNashville Technology Networking Event was held (Nashville State) which helped students connect with Business leaders in an informal networking event. Over 75 technology students attended.
• Our student Congress has been launched. We have 20 inaugural members from Austin Peay, Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee State, MTSU, Nashville State, and ITT Tech. They had their first meeting in the Spring and will have meetings going forward.
• T3tech.org was launched in March as a way to communicate information to all stake holders of the initiative.
• An event, TechNet, was held to assist unemployed technology workers find jobs here locally so we did not lose technology talent to other cities. Over 80 unemployed technology workers attended.
• Staff supported 2 Middle Tennessee academic institutions in their endeavors to receive grants from the National Science Foundation for technology education. (Belmont and MTSU)
• Staff helped to create partnerships between MTSU professor and business for ProjectMT.
• T3 Solution Team members are in the process of creating a new application. The application will help students and the workforce visualize their career paths.

Many other programs are being planned for the 2009-2010 year that we feel will continue to allow us to strengthen the relationships between academic and business leaders, create connections with students, and promote Nashville and Middle Tennessee as a great place to live, work, and play for technology workers. If you have any interest in getting involved in the initiative please contact me at scarter@technologycouncil.com.

Venture Nashville said...

NTC President Tod Fetherling said today that Kent Fourman, CIO at Permanent General here, will chair the T-3 initiative, going forward. In March, Fourman said that with the help of T-3, companies looking for IT talent locally will be able to "reduce acquisition costs and make it more likely that the employee will be retained for a longer period.”

Venture Nashville said...

This news just in: Kent Fourman (previous post) will share T-3 duties with co-chairman David Houghton, a principal in North Highland.

Jtodwork said...

Dave Delaney, I don't want to hijack a Geek Breakfast, but I also hate to be redundant. Would it be possible to dedicate a Geek Breakfast to this topic? I am sure it will be the buzz anyway, but in particular, I would love to start crafting solutions to the problems.

1. More program language user groups
2. More meet ups (don't really think this is the issue, but maybe I am wrong.)
3. LAMP event focused on this community
4. Connecting in Nashville. Is there some way to make this easier?
5. Someone mentioned a session at Barcamp. I think this is a great idea. I started my tenure there last year. Beware of what you ask for. You will get lots of input and you will have to execute. I am still working on the to do list I got last year.

gpend said...

I feel that as a hardware geek I need to speak up for the rest of the community. Not every geek/nerd in Nashville is a programmer. I am the one who supports the workstation you program on, the network it connects to and the servers that the network connects to with little more programming that a shell script or two. And as for the events, I have not felt excluded, however I did not feel that I would be comfortable as a non-programmer. For example, at the employment event several months back I cannot count how many times I heard 'no thanks' when I mentioned that I was not a programmer. I know I cannot be the only one in this category if only from the people I have known in tech support circles. Oh, and if you want hardware geeks to really gather… offer toys to play with :)

Compassioninpolitics said...

I echo what Jackson said above (particularly the 2nd paragraph:

>>>The way I see it there are top tier cities for tech entrepreneurship like the Bay Area, Seattle, and Boston. Then there are the places challenging those cities like Austin, Denver, and Portland. Nashville has a long way to go before we can compete with those secondary cities.

>>>I know in Denver there is a monthly New Tech Meetup that regularly draws 150 engineers to talk about what they are working on. The events like Geek Breakfast and the various mixers are great, but they are mostly "geeks" in the social media sense. To me, it seems the Nashville tech community is still a little light on tech.

I would also echo this sentiment:

>>>>Dave Delaney, I don't want to hijack a Geek Breakfast, but I also hate to be redundant. Would it be possible to dedicate a Geek Breakfast to this topic? I am sure it will be the buzz anyway, but in particular, I would love to start crafting solutions to the problems.

1. More program language user groups
2. More meet ups (don't really think this is the issue, but maybe I am wrong.)
3. LAMP event focused on this community
4. Connecting in Nashville. Is there some way to make this easier?
5. Someone mentioned a session at Barcamp. I think this is a great idea. I started my tenure there last year. Beware of what you ask for. You will get lots of input and you will have to execute. I am still working on the to do list I got last year.

Ed Dodds said...

A simple point here but it would make it a lot easier for Nashville geeks to network if folks would include their contact info when posting about the difficulties of networking -- so
identi.ca/eddodds
linkedin.com/in/eddodds
twitter.com/ed_dodds

Dave Delaney said...

@Compassioninpolitics
@Jtodwork

I can't dedicate a Geek Breakfast to any given topic, because that defeats the purpose of GB's spontaneity.

It's not a place for a soapbox, it's for conversations.

I think having a session(s) about this very topic would be VERY beneficial at BarCamp (Oct 17): http://barcampnashville.com/.

As for connecting in Nashville, I've created a Geek Breakfast group on FriendFeed which I encourage you all to join.

Whether you attend the breakfasts or not, I hope to make this a great place for Nashville geeks of all areas to congregate.

See you there?

http://friendfeed.com/nashville-geek-breakfast

Jtodwork said...

We should give Portland some props. Listed in Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the best cities for entrepreneurs. Very collaborative type of city. Nashville was not listed, but most of our peers were: Austin, Research Triangle, etc.

Ed Dodds said...

The key to Portland is OPEN SOURCE. It is a collaborative culture because of the way they develop tech. OSCON is slated to move back there (allegedly) because it didn't do as well in San Jose (see also http://opensourcebridge.org/). Oregon State sponsors Open Source Lab there -- any Nashville Higher Ed institution willing to step up? Given http://www.opensourceforamerica.org/ the time might be now -- or not...

Ed Dodds said...

Thought the folks who've commented on this post might appreciate a pointer to this event enterpriselamp.org in case you have not yet heard. Also, any higher ed orgainzational reps out there interested in launching a Nashville Open Source Lab a la http://osuosl.org/?

Ed Dodds said...

Twitter Scaling Solution Earns Reductive Labs $2 Million http://www.readwriteweb.com/readwritestart/2009/06/twitter-scaling-solution-earns.php

Venture Nashville Connections said...

The immediately preceding post by Ed Dodds suggests the pull of VC from NVille to P'land. Related release:
http://tinyurl.com/l858tv