Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Running a Tech Company without the Tech

Posted: June 21, 2015 by JB Woodruff in People, Startup, Technology

JB-WOODRUFF-BADGEMy job is to help entrepreneurs.  The majority of businesses I encounter have technology-based solutions in the form of a consumer app or SaaS (software as a service) product.  It’s not surprising that we see a lot of founders of tech startups given the media attention and big payoffs. What is surprising is the number of founders that aren’t technology people.  This led me to ask the question, what’s it like to run a tech company without the tech? In the context of this article I consider tech to be a team member with developer skills that includes coding and infrastructure knowledge.  Instead of pulling solely from my own experiences, I decided to reach out to a few entrepreneurs to get their thoughts.  Here’s what I learned:

“How do I find good tech for my team?” You can never start looking early enough for tech on your team.  It can be a lengthy process that involves a lot of networking, referrals, dead ends and reboots. The difficulty is finding someone who has the skills, reputation and equal or greater passion for your business.  Amanda Kranias (Hello Parent) highly recommends, “talk to other companies/teams and listen to what others experienced using the developer.”  Casey Williams (Linkedü) offers another opinion, “I got burned by hiring someone based on a recommendation.  The two developers I’ve hired from within my own network have worked out well.”  Moral: You need to do your homework, meet a lot of people, trust your gut and move on when it doesn’t work out. (more…)

Rapid Innovation

Posted: February 21, 2015 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, People, Startup, Technology

bill-cunningham-sc“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”  – Steve Jobs – founder of Apple Computer

In my office I have a picture of Steve Jobs on one wall and Steve Blank facing him on the other. Mr. Jobs certainly needs no introduction, but Mr. Blank is not a household word around the Midwest as he is a veteran of 8 Silicon Valley tech companies and teaches at Stanford and Berkeley.  Steve Jobs believes customers can’t know what they want — we have to invent it for them.  Steve Blank, however, believes that you must find out what your customers need, and solve their problems. Which Steve do you follow?


Cavete vendit

Posted: July 27, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Legal, Money, Operations, Startup, Technology

bill-cunninghamCaveat emptor, which means “beware the buyer,” resonates with anyone who buys goods or services on the web. The credit card industry has created a safety net where we feel that providing our credit card information for web purchases is probably safer than giving a credit card to an unscrupulous waitress or bartender.

However, as a merchant that sells over the web, the words “Cavete vendit” should ring clear in your mind meaning “Seller beware.” Merchants carry a tremendous of risk in taking credit cards and you need to plan accordingly.

I experienced a frustrating run with a credit card scammer and learned how vulnerable merchants are in the process. The experience also showed us where the gaps were in our security and gave us pause as to why we hadn’t taken these measures in the first place.


Getting Back on the Field

Posted: July 6, 2014 by Micah Baldwin in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup, Technology

Micah Baldwin6One thing that people don’t know about me is that I played lacrosse for 18 years, and coached for 15 of them. Coached all kinds of players from 3rd grade to college; even spent a year coaching women (which is an unsurprisingly unique experience).

As I started companies, it was easy to believe that as CEO, I would be something of a “player-coach.” I would get my hands dirty when needed, but mostly would run the team and be a leader for the players.

Turns out, being CEO is none of that.

Over the past three years or so, I have been CEO of Graphicly. Until a few months ago when I walked into our Board meeting and informed the board that it was time for me to step down.

It was time for me to remove the “CEO” part of “player-CEO.”

Why? The simple, truthful answer is that it was the right thing for the company and, frankly, the right thing for me.


Getting Ready for the Next Big Thing

Posted: June 15, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, Innovation, Technology

bill-cunninghamTwenty five years ago, I invited a team from P&G to Apple’s Special Systems Division in Cupertino, California to take a peek at the future of computing. In Cupertino, we viewed a video tape (VHS, of course) called Knowledge Navigator which showed a handheld notebook with a camera, telephony and interactive video. We didn’t know it, but we were viewing the first incarnation of the iPad. And this was before there was an internet, and cell phones just made phone calls. (You can now find this video on

This year UPS published a study called UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper. This study triggered the fond memories of massive changes like Apple showed in Knowledge Navigator circa 1989. Think about these highlights  that should provoke your own evaluation of how you and your company will adapt.

For example, look at all the retail building that is now underway. Real estate studies show that there is enough retail space in the U.S. to accommodate a population of 900 million people. We continue to build, yet online retailing grew 7x faster than offline and achieved 10% share of discretionary spending last holiday season. Especially for the male gender, online shopping has created last-minute saves for anniversaries, birthdays and special occasions without requiring a trip to the dreaded mall.


bill-cunninghamBoston stole the startup crown from Cambridge this past year by closing 97 venture capital deals in 2013 compared with 66 in 2012. Kyle Alspach, tech guru writer for the Boston Globe, penned a front page article describing the huge tectonic shift from Cambridge to Boston. Although Silicon Valley still reigns as the startup king, Cambridge has always enjoyed a vibrant startup ecosystem thanks to the talents and treasures attracted by MIT and Harvard. Former Boston mayor Thomas Menino wanted to

Kyle Alspach, Tech Guru Writer at the Boston Globe

Kyle Alspach, Tech Guru Writer at the Boston Globe

“create an irresistible environment” for entrepreneurs – changing the name of Boston’s Seaport district to the Innovation district. He rallied the politicians to build infrastructure, and real estate barons to convert warehouses into cool, high tech space. It turns out that the basics attract entrepreneurs, and Cincinnati would do well to take copious notes on Boston’s journey. (more…)

The Future is Bright

Posted: October 9, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Ecosystem, Planning, Startup, Technology

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”

              — 1986 hit song by Timbuk3


sunglassessmallSara Specter, editor at Modern Materials Handling, asked me to review and give feedback on a draft of the US Material Handling and Logistics Roadmap, a synthesis of over 200 participants from all facts of industry, academia and government to predict the state of the industry in 2025. Since Material Handling and Logistics touch every facet of our life from what we eat and wear to how we drive and play, it makes sense to think about how our organization would fit into that world.

My first impression: Technology will disrupt the market more than we can imagine. At Promat 2013, a logistics trade show, the futurist, Edie Weiner, talked about the speed of technology change: “It is happening at an exponential exponential rate, and I did mean to repeat myself.”

The roadmap thinkers envision innovations such as “same day” and even “same hour” deliveries. While this seems like a ridiculous notion that we would need something the same hour, look back to the 1970’s where we thought next day delivery was limited to extremely urgent situations. FEDEX changed all that. And the thought of free, two-day delivery for everything seemed like a sure way to lose money, yet Amazon dominates a market where they have set expectation that everything is delivered in two days for free.


aviramThe lessons of the new economy hold that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to get off and rapidly find a new mount. However, in traditional business, it is often difficult to let go of your investment in dead horses, which leads you to try other strategies to breach life into hopeless investments, such as:

  • Change riders
  • Buy a stronger whip
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed
  • Emulate the best practices of companies riding dead horses
  • Outsource the ridership of the horse
  • Affirm, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
  • Change the requirements, declaring, “This horse is not dead.”
  • Perform a cost analysis to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
  • Promote the dead horse to a management position.
  • Have the solicitors bring suit against the horse manufacturer.
  • Put out a news release that, in the unlikely event the horse is dead, it was dead before it ever came to the company.

A leader is one who does the right things, while a manager is one who does things right. In the new economy, leadership evolves to a new reconciliation of this polarity. It’s not enough to do the right things flawlessly; new economy CEOs must do it with conspicuous display of vision and character.


Kelly Leon of  WKRC Channel 12’s US Bank Business Watch program interviews Bill Cunningham, Founder of and Shop Foreman for the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association.

CarolynPioneMicheliPeople have asked me recent what is behind all the new entrepreneurial energy in Southwest Ohio.

Maybe you have noticed how startup companies are regularly featured in the media and how seminars and workshops are proliferating on topics such as how to launch a technology company, how to fund a technology company, how to work with a technology company.

Local universities are expanding entrepreneurship and startup accelerator programs, and new organizations such as Cintrifuse, the Brandery and Innov8 for Health have risen up to complement existing groups.

In just two years, the numbers have jumped dramatically: In 2009, 14 Cincinnati-based startups received $27 million in venture capital. In 2011, 36 companies received $70.2 million, according to Ohio State’s Fisher College, which is still gathering 2012 data.

A reporter from Louisville asked me last fall whether this activity was driven by the revitalization of downtown and Over-the-Rhine, drawing new people into the region. Others have credited a down economy with seeding ‘disillusionment’ toward corporate America.