Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

CHICAGO—THE BEST INCUBATOR IN AMERICA?

by Denny O’Malley

Recently, Inc.com published an article about the best cities for early-stage companies. The premise: Chicago is the surprise winner.

Why would that be? San Francisco and New York are both beautiful, thriving cities that dramatically represent the diversity of American ideas. San Fran—younger, more venture-oriented, with beautiful natural vistas. New York—the classic, bustling private and public equity concrete jungle.

What do they have in common? It costs a kidney to pay rent for a closet. Continue reading

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HOW BAD IS IT

bobs-bad-poetry-swtby Loop Lonagan

Lotsa people keep tellin’ me good things about Bob’s Bad Poetry so I’m checkin’ it out. Yeah, yeah, I know what yer thinkin’. But there’s no law against an angel investor goin’ in fer high culture. That’s right, I like literature ‘n’ modern art too—’specially the abstract stuff. You got some problem with that, bud? Hey, me fodder and me mudder’s both Irish ‘n’ both poets, so’s I got it in da genes. Maybe you already figured that out from da way I talk.

And hey—dis ain’t just any poetry—it’s high tech—performed exclusively on da internet. Maybe it’s a startup company! Y’know how I like t’ invest in them. So I ask ya—lookin’ at da macro picture—with this lousy economy, dis goofy election, crime ‘n’ all—can it be that hard times once again spawn a renaissance o’ creative juices? Will demand fer artistic expression skyrocket like it done in da 60’s? Doncha wish you invested in Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney back then? Could it be that bad poetry is da next growth industry? Sounds like a winner t’ me! But how d’ya make a thing like that fly?

I sneak onto You Tube while da boss ain’t lookin’. He’s over dare, behind his big fat beat-up WWII air force desk tyin’ flies. Yeah, flies! Fer fishin’! Guy’s got da worst case o’ writer’s block I ever seen. He won’t notice me takin’ in a little culture. Don’t seem to notice nothin’ nowadays—unless it’s new fishing gear or maybe a Cubs game. Yeah, he put in a big-screen TV and DVR here at our corporate offices in the backroom of Ludditis Shots & Beer—just so he don’t miss a single inning.

ludditis-shots-and-beer-500

Our Corporate Offices

Whoa—look at dis site! This is fer real! Bob’s pumpin’ out a new poem every single day. Weekends too! I watch five of ‘em and find myself feelin’ real, real good—kinda grinnin’ to myself like I just downed a big mug o’ prime porter and lickin’ my lips. But beer costs money and dis poetry site is entirely free! Don’t cost me a single dollar! And only five minutes goes by! Yeah, deeze poems is all short—real short—just da way I like ‘em! So I subscribe, just to make sure I don’t miss any.

bobs-bad-poetry

Bob Badpoet

Can high culture be good fer a guy and this much fun too? Bob’s Bad Poetry. Looks to me like a creative genius maybe figured a way t’ use dis high tech world t’ make money—in an industry where nobody made money before! And if he’s revenue positive, dat’s what I call da businessman of today! If he’s selling shares, I’m in!

And if you don’t believe me, see fer yerself. Click here: BOB’S BAD POETRY

 

Please listen to poetry responsibly.

Graphic by Jennifer Otsuka

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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DON’T GET DOWN—GET BUSY

Howard Tullman Double Gulp Tby Howard Tullman

If you run a startup you’ll hit a wall or screw up big-time at some point. It goes with the territory. What doesn’t is letting yourself get stopped. Adversity doesn’t need any help. There are things you can do to right the ship—and the first is to right yourself.

The bond between the best entrepreneurs and their businesses is often tight and all-encompassing—so much so that they can make the easy mistake of confusing who they are as people with what they do for a living. They can lose sight of some of the more important things that distinguish earning a living from having a life. And because they typically take the ups-and-downs of business so personally, there’s virtually no separation between work and what little time is left for the rest of life. Family, friends, everything suffers.

If the business takes a hit, which startups do on a regular basis, the tendency is to feel like a personal failure—to feel fundamentally worthless. If that sounds overly dramatic or overwrought, come live in my world for a few weeks and you’ll change your mind in no time. The external stresses of business creation are nothing compared to the mental beatings and recriminations we administer to ourselves. It’s not healthy, it’s not smart, but it’s common to what we’ve chosen.

Frustration from Getty Images

Getty Images

Having said that, I want to be clear that I believe that there’s no such thing as “just business.” It’s essential to take your business personally if you want any chance of real success—if you want to build something that matters and makes a difference. But, at the same time, I don’t think that you can let your identity and your sense of self-worth be entirely subsumed by the day-to-day crises and fire drills and the many setbacks that we all deal with. The ups and the occasional wins are nice; but it’s the downs and learning how to deal with them that makes all the difference in the long run.

We all get depressed from time to time because—and I hope this doesn’t come as a complete surprise to anyone—life isn’t fair. Even the nicest people get knocked on the head from time to time. The very best of intentions are scant protection from the vagaries of the startup world. And especially in the startup world, few things work out the way you planned. Sadly, and far too often, just being in the right time and place, or catching some other lucky break beats out a lot of better ideas, a bunch of long hours, hard work, and even much better technology and solutions. Bill Gates is a spectacular example. That’s just how it goes. But where things go after something good happens is up to you. How do you handle the bruises and blisters that are all an essential part of growing any business?

I’ve watched hundreds of entrepreneurs handle every kind of adversity, and lived through more near-death experiences myself than I care to recall, and I’ve concluded that there’s a right way to proceed and a lot of ways that are wastes of time, leading nowhere. Some of these approaches are just common sense ideas, but it’s easy to look past them when you’re feeling down and troubled. So here goes.

 

What Won’t Work

Playing the Blame Game

There’s always someone or something to blame. Usually it’s the people not in the room or circumstances you can’t do anything about. It doesn’t help to whine. Worse, by putting your fate in the hands of circumstances or third parties, you give up your own power to change things. Sitting back and feeling sorry for yourself isn’t ever a viable solution.

 

Settling for a Situation that Sucks

Nothing I know gets better by itself. If you want a better outcome or result, you have to take control of the situation and make things better. Standing still means you’re sliding back while others are racing ahead. As often as not, when you settle for less than your best, you end up with even less than you settled for.

 

Trying to Ignore the Problem

If you don’t want to believe or accept something, no amount of evidence will change your mind. But, if you ignore a serious problem long enough, you’ll eventually have a crisis on your hands and then you’ll have no choice but to take action. It makes much more sense to get started on a solution before things get out of control. Ignoring the unhappy facts doesn’t make them go away; they just fester.

 

Trying to Be Superman

You can’t solve everything by yourself regardless of how many all-nighters you pull. Important problems are complex and require a competent team to address and resolve. A team distributes the burdens, stresses, and makes for a much better result.

 

Trying to Distract Yourself

You may think that you can re-direct your focus on trivial things—see a show, a movie, take a run or workout, have a few drinks—and magically you’ll stop worrying about the elephant in the room. But that’s not the way an entrepreneurial brain works. It never shuts down completely. Convincing yourself that you don’t care isn’t as easy as you might imagine, regardless of what a great sales person you are. And even if you momentarily get your head out of the game, your stomach will still keep score.

 

What Will Work

Do Something Now to Fix the Problem

Nothing beats now. You may not get it totally right but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t get started. Better to do something constructive and move the ball forward than to sit in a pile of pity. People who work hard and still can’t find the right answers don’t come to a screeching halt. They bend the world to their needs and desires. They create their own solutions. They make conditions and circumstances that succeed.

 

Raise Your Sights and Expectations for Next Time

At 1871, one of our favorite mottos is: “It’s Only a NO for NOW.” The most critical skill of any successful entrepreneur is perseverance. Get knocked down. Get back up. Try again. While you’re at it, aim a little higher the next time because selling yourself short is stupid. Ignore all the people who tell you why things can’t be done.

 

Focus on What is Working and Build from There

I call this “eating the elephant one bite at a time.” Not every problem can be solved all at once. But you can build off the foundation formed by the accomplishments and successes that you’ve had to date and then break the remaining barriers down into manageable, bite-sized challenges. Take tasks on one at a time. A lot of small steps, pushes, and the occasional shove—as well as a little bit of patience—will get you there.

 

Acknowledge that Things Could Be a Lot Worse

People who aren’t living this life think that all entrepreneurs are cock-eyed optimists who view everything through rose-colored glasses and believe that trees grow to the sky. But we know better. Serial entrepreneurs will tell you that it’s never as bad or as good as it looks. Every day you must put on a brave and excited face for the world and your team. Deep down inside, it may pay to be a little paranoid, but it’s essential, in the privacy of your own mind, to be proud—proud of how far you’ve come when so many others never could, proud of what you’ve built so far and all the people you’ve benefited along the way. There are much worse ways you could spend your time and your life. Admit it and get on with it.

 

Remember Why You’re Doing This in the First Place

We didn’t come this far to quit or to only come this far. We didn’t come to play; we came to win. And we wouldn’t be doing this at all if it wasn’t important and likely to make a difference to a lot of people in addition to ourselves. That’s why we come to work; put our noses to the grindstone; and try to get better every single day. If it was easy, anyone could do it. It’s not.

 

Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/ and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Or just type his name into your favorite search engine.

 

Photo credits: Howard Tullman, Getty Images

This article is abridged from the version appearing in INC.

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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HAWKS

Hawk Logo_JAJ0561by Mark T. Wayne

“Quit talking business!  This is important!”  A shocking pronouncement coming from one’s employer!  I go mum.  We sit behind thick glass, watching the Chicago Blackhawks clobber the Anaheim Ducks in the final game of the series.  The Hawks will win this game and go on to the coveted Stanley Cup.  That is correct, sir—an opportunity for a third championship in just a few years!

I comply with Jonelis’ rude order.  I do it because I sympathize with his lack of discipline in this arena of violent chaos.  And of course, like most men, I am quite prepared to revive my boyhood when the opportunity arises.  Certainly, there are subjects other than business worthy of utterance.

Mark T Wayne

Lonagan is at my right, constantly jostling, constantly booming, “Did ya see dat?” shouts the execrable fellow.  “He jammed da butt o’ his stick right into dat poor sap’s kisser.”  Permit me to note that Lonagan is able to perform a multitude of tasks simultaneously:

  • He shouts expert opinions about every detail of this free-for-all.
  • He gnaws great hunks from greasy bratwurst.
  • He swills beer from a paper cup with great skill.

I have never before witnessed a hockey game.  I attempt to test its worth with my closest scrutiny, but find it difficult to comprehend my editor’s rationale—dragging me out here to write about six bearded hooligans with faulty dental work beating up six over-muscled goons.  How can I stay abreast of the Chicago private equity action?  Nothing of impact happens in California.  Most of their financiers chase after the same-old, same-old mobile apps.  But I agreed not to talk business.

John thru the glass_JAJ05618B

Against the glass

Jonelis and Lonagan both jump to their feet and beer sloshes onto my fine white flannel suit.  “Goal!” they scream in rough unison, and the stadium erupts in opposing voices of victory and outrage.  Jonelis pounds my shoulder.  “Did you see that?  Did you?  A rebound—that’s the way to score a goal—always crowd the net!”  I am perplexed.  How can he possibly assume that I did not witness the occurrence?  Does the man think I am blind?  We are right here in the front row of the roaring crowd, watching this madness with an entirely unobstructed view!  A gentleman named Toews, who I am told, for some unknown reason, pronounces his name Taves, just flung a small black object into the goal by artful use of a stick.  I saw the act, as did every other bloodthirsty spectator in this crowded coliseum.

Meanwhile, Lonagan gesticulates broadly with both arms, then breaks into impassioned laughter that squeezes out a few tears.  He reaches across me and punches Jonelis square on the shoulder.  “Dis is da best!  First class airfare.  First class box seats!  I kin hardly believe I’m here!  What made ya ask me?”

Jonelis seems momentarily at a loss for words.  He grins sheepishly, then admits in a somewhat lower tone, “You know how to throw a party—I don’t.”  He clears his throat.  “After we win this game, I want to celebrate.  I want to do it right.”

I catch a glint in Lonagan’s eye.  “You want I should pour it on industrial strength?”

A wan smile.  “That’s the general idea.”

“Yer on!”  Lonagan grins like a slathering bulldog.  “What about old whisker-puss here?”

“He’s covering the game.”  Then Jonelis addresses me.  “Get the article out tonight, will you?”

I care not about a drunken felon denigrating the quality of my mustaches, but the second insult inflicts its sting.  My host reduces my status from guest to employee.  Such is the level of respect shown an accomplished novelist.  A writer is without honor, sir!  (I secretly resolve to delay the entire project for several days.  I, too, enjoy the Lonagan fellow’s raucous celebrations.)

Two huge bodies in bulky uniforms slam into the glass inches from my nose with an impact that rattles the structure of the enclosure.

I sit up and take notice.

Pinned, the Hawk reaches under an inadequate face guard and grabs the nose of the angry Duck, who bars his stick against the Hawk’s hairy throat.

A whistle!

With a bleeding nose, the Duck skates to the penalty box.

In the ensuing power play, I note amazingly deceptive and expert stick handling.  Fascinating!  Other members of the team, entirely out of the action of play, perform acts of sadistic menace upon each other’s persons.  These go unnoticed by the officials, otherwise engaged.  As an organ plays magnificent chants, I wonder how thugs learn to skate with such skill.

Toews scores another goal and I am wearing flecks of Lonagan’s mustard.  Only a few minutes have transpired since the splattering of beer—inadequate time to allow my suit to dry.

I stand and cheer!  “Hooray!”

This represents an important lesson!  Yes sir!  How is it that I have never before attended such an event as this?  And I speculate on the odds of bribing a season ticket from some luminary with the only real weapon I own—the promise to not write about him.

Read KIDNAPPED

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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HIGH TECH HIGH TEA

Thomas EdisonTechBash – Part 4

John Jonelis

I’m at Chicago’s premier social incubator – i.c.stars. Fresh faces of their current crop of interns rim this boardroom-sized table. All neat. All professional. As the tea makes its rounds, I hear well-crafted introductions. Mannerly. In-depth. Heartfelt. Spoken by people who have known each other during months of intense struggle. It’s more like introducing family than business associates. icstarg 35And I notice something else that’s significant. The interns introduce each other—not themselves—and they do it with a high level of trust, mutual respect, and selflessness.You can’t help but be moved by the way they describe each other. This is High Tea—a curious ceremony that takes place each day and has such a big impact on those who attend the i.c.stars program. icstarg 31The introductions are for the benefit of two guests at the end of the table. They’re today’s starsC-level executives here to relate their personal stories. The man to my left takes my hand in a solid grip and explains the protocol in a low rumbling tone. “When it’s your turn,” He says, “Just tell them my name and pour the tea.” I signal thumbs-up for thanks and peek at his business card: Quashe’ Granville. Hey, this is Loop Lonogan’s friend from TechBash! I’ve read enough about this guy to cobble together a decent introduction. My cup gets filled. Now it’s my turn.

At the risk of embarrassing Quashe’, I relate Lonogan’s impressions of him. Quiet strength. Quashe GranvilleThoughtful to others but a powerful presence. An overcomer who’s looked adversity in the eye and conquered. A quick study and self-learner in this high-tech environment. A great spokesman for the i.c.stars program.

I pour his tea. Now Quashe’ is pouring and it’s just like Lonagan told me—he really does sound like James Earl Jones. The tea continues around the table .

Real Success

The two guests present themselves as ordinary individuals and tell remarkably personal stories. It occurs to me that hearing such histories from C-level executives every single day must instill an instinct for the many ways to succeed—because success is something reached by a different path every single time. Everybody is taking notes. Quashe’ slides over his personal notebook for my use. icstars-hq4 The formalities finally come to an end and regular conversation breaks out. One of the speakers talks of his first job—the mouse at Chuck E Cheese’s—then washing dishes to earn his way through college. The interns tell about i.c.stars experiences but nothing prior to that, and I take it as intentional. I hear about subjects taught by the program: Leadership. Communications. Networking. Public Speaking. And then a surprise—Civics—they teach Civics and that changes attitudes. Doing what’s right. Becoming a change agent. Asking yourself why people should want to work for you. Asking yourself what your legacy will be. How can you give back to the community? I hear about respect, trust, pride, and a passion for helping those who get overlooked. Time’s up and high tea is over. The interns take their guests on a tour of the facility. We visit a private lair for the interns—a room set aside for free thought, free expression. Whiteboards, brown paper, notes all over the walls. Raw ideas. A song of the day. A person of the day. Avatar Joy Now we’re looking at the mobile app this team is building for a major corporation. At this point, they’re making the software bullet-proof. Layering encryption. Improving the user experience. . .

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The Project

The target audience is age 5-8, and the kids learn safety before they get to do science. Avatar SalThe software makes it engaging with Better-Than-Disney avatars – Sal, Joy, Ned & Pippiand they interact in a game environment. I hear a lot of oohs and aahs in the background. I ask Quashe’ how they can build a mobile app for a Fortune 500 company after just a week of training and only three months to complete the project. “We’re using Ruby on Rails,” he says. “It’s a really easy language to learn.” I happen to know better than that and try to argue the point, but he brushes my objections aside. Avatar Ned “Everything is on the fly,” he says. “The first step is Fast Feed. We throw that code up and if it fails, we instantly stop. ‘What’s wrong? Let’s debug. Let’s get it.’ Then we throw it back up in there. If it passes, now we’re in Staging.”

The terms are new to me but I get the concept. Quashe’ continues: “If it fails at Staging, we stop. ‘What was the difference from Fast Feed to Staging? Let’s fix it.’ Avatar PippiWhen it passes that, we throw it to Production. Once everything is complete and we’re at Production and we’re passing, now it’s lunch time.”

So they crack the problem first—then stop to eat! Sounds more like the Thomas Edison approach than the Microsoft way of doing things. I like it. I hear one of them say they used to call this project their ugly baby, but it’s not ugly any more. icstars-hq7Now they’re using four laptops to show me how they broke the project into four different segments. They’ll bring those together and launch it. Before this article hits the presses, this crop of interns has graduated. What became of their mobile app? So far, the client uses the graphics and ideas but not the game itself. It’s worth checking out the site. Or see the video:

And before I leave, I have a few serious questions for Sandee Kastrul, who heads-up this organization. .

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GO TO PART 5 – TOUGH LOVE

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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i.c.stars – www.icstars.org Sandee Kastrul – President & Co-founder – sKastrul@icstars.org Quashe’ E Granville – QuasheGranville@gmail.com

Photo credits: i.c.stars, UL Labs, Wikipedia .

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money. .Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved . .

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GIVING BACK

DSC_0911 TTechBash – Part 2

by Loop Lonagan

as told to John Jonelis –

Seems to me Christmas is all about givin’ to other people and I say we keep it that way. I love Christmas. Ever’ year I start my celebration on Thanksgiving and don’t take the tree down till January the Fifth. That’s Twelfth Night fer youse guys that don’t know. That night I throw a big party, hire cooks, a piano player, ‘n’ ever’body burns a branch from the tree before they leave.

There’s an outfit right here in Chicago that keeps the spirit o’ giving alive all the yearlong. They find people with talent, creativity, intelligence, hard knocks ‘n’ plenty o’ moxey. Then they pay ‘em to train fer big-time jobs. That’s one o’ the nicest gifts you can give a person with them kinda attributes—a chance to use what they got inside themselves. Think about it—all that potential just waitin’ to burst out so bad a guy could explode.

IMG_9826 B

And the corporations is eatin’ it up, ‘cause they need them kinda people more than anything else, and it ain’t easy to find ‘em. They need ‘em so bad they’ll pay for it in time and money. I think this outfit is gonna be one o’ the most successful self-sustaining social entrepreneurial ventures that ever started in Chicago. They call themselves i.c.stars.

Here I am at their huge TechBash party where I expect to find hoards o’ ravenous, greedy corporate Scrooges. What I really wanna find is a story about giving. The food and bar is open and maybe I take more’n my share of them good things ‘n’ by now I got lotsa Christmas cheer inside o’ me. But hey—it’s a party. I can be just as greedy as the next guy and I’m havin’ such a good time at it.

DSC_0909 B

Da Passion Project

I hold my MP3 recorder at arm’s length and stick it in the middle of a buncha i.c.stars alums. It’s a weird-lookin’ gadget and these guys freak out like I’m one o’ them Men in Black. I gotta tell ‘em, “It isn’t gonna erase yer memory.” They see I make the movie connection and that brings peals o’ laughter all around.

Two of ‘em stick with me—Nkosi White (Nik) and Christopher Butler. IMG_9829 BChris works fer WGN and the Chicago Tribune, which is a helluvalot bigger rag than this one.

“I love doing graphic design for them. It’s great,” he says. “What i.c.stars was able to do was show me the business end. I didn’t know how to market myself, how to present myself—just to be able to look at an interviewer and figure out what they’re looking for in that time. So they teach you how to assess those things very quickly and how to act on the fly. They put you on the spot but you learn how to rebound and jump into position faster than you could before.”

Nik landed a big-time IT job with WW Grainger just a month outa i.c.stars. We hang out a while and I find out he makes Craft Beer. Then he tells me something that grabs my attention:

“Passion projects,” he says. Passion projects are huge. That’s one thing they teach us at i.c.stars. Have a desire to learn technology, but then in addition to that, identify with what your passion is. Understand that you have a civic duty to fulfill—whether it’s from the neighborhood you came from or whether it’s highlighting others that don’t really get the visibility that you get. Have a passion project—have a civic duty. And then be great in technology as well. It’s a combination of the two. That’s what makes i.c.stars special.”

Now THAT—that right there is what I call the spirit o’ giving.  That’s what we need more of.

icstarg 4 B

Da Sponsor

I talk to one o’ the Big Honcho Sponsors—Jon Mathews from BridgePoint Technologies. (Yeah, he spells his name with one ‘t’.)

“We do a lot with i.c.stars,” he says. “Especially with the interns they take on—teaching them development. We work with a lot of companies who need young developers and need more people going into this avenue.”

So I ask him straight out: “D’ya find these interns come out fluent in programming?”

“Yes, they’re trained very well. It’s amazing what i.c.stars does for those who weren’t brought up in IT. We’ve had positive feedback from clients where we placed them.”

So that’s good news right from the source.

I wanna talk summore to Vera Shabazz. (See Part 1 of this series.) So I hunt till I find her ‘n’ ask just what i.c.stars did for her—personal-like.

icstarg 17 B“They teach you how to think technically—not just thinking—but thinking technically,” she says. “It’s just a great place to be. It’s a great place to learn. Through i.c.stars, I was able to re-invent myself from being in banking to now working IT at United Airlines. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t gone to i.c.stars. I don’t.”

Quashe׳ Granville joins our little circle: “i.c.stars is a place where you can bridge the gap between technology, business, and leadership skills.” That’s a good businesslike description. Just one line. I’m impressed. I drink down the last o’ my Scotch ‘n’ Soda and ask, “How d’they do that exactly?”

Vera smiles. “After the first few weeks of training, the purpose is to do a large project with a major company, build teams and camaraderie, and to get you in the mindset. It’s like a boot camp. Once you’re done here, you can secure a job.”

The music gets louder and I lean close to Vera. “So you do a simulation or some kinda practice project?”

“No, it’s real. When I was at i.c.stars, our company was TTX. You know who they are, right? Well if you ever ride the Metra, those are their cars. The CIO and two others were the mentors that helped us through our project. Their CIO was the one who helped me get my job at United Airlines.

Quashe׳ leans-in closer too, but even in all this noise, I don’t have no trouble hearin’ his deep voice. “Right now, our team is working on a mobile app that’s going to help UL with brand awareness.”

That catches me off-guard. “UL asked i.c.stars to do somethin’ that big?”

“Actually, WE put the project together. UL just told us they needed help with brand awareness.”

“The interns figure out the project,” says Vera. “What is it the company wants? What do they need? From the time you’re doing that project, they’re analyzing you. Asking questions. They want to know how well you handle yourself.”

I study these two. Both hard survivors—both soft hearts. “Sounds to me like a tough kinda program.”

Vera nods. “It is tough. But i.c.stars makes sure about you. If you think about it, they’re putting us back into the community and asking us to give back. If we’re not prepared, then what do we have to give back?

icstarg 8 B

Giving Back

“Everything is about giving back,” says Vera. “They let you know that if you don’t give, you can’t get. So once I graduated, whatever I have, whatever I can do, whatever I can give—I give it because I know that it’s coming back tenfold.“

This gal makes a wonderful spokesman ‘n’ she’s a terrific lesson in gratitude—somethin’ most of us just don’t seem wired for.

“I love i.c.stars!” she says. “ Whatever I can do, they’ve got my help. I think all of us who are alums still give back to i.c.stars. We volunteer for whatever Sandee needs.

“I also give back through Virginias House – a non-profit organization, which is for victims of domestic violence. My goal is to provide traditional housing for 1000 survivors and their children by the year 2025. I want to build a facility on the south side of Chicago that will allow them to leave their abusive homes and also stay for a year, getting themselves prepared to move on”.

“Whats the chance o’ gettin’ that off the ground.?”

“We’ve already got the programs together. We already did one function and we’re doing more. Since leaving i.c.stars, we have helped 50 families. They might need food. Their children might need clothes or school supplies. We help them with that as well. We have partnerships from Jewel and Dominick’s. Gift cards. Food. Clothing.”

Gettin’ In

I ask Vera, “How hard was it to get into the i.c.stars program?”

“The first thing I thought when I did the application process was, ‘What the heck? What is this for? Why do I need to fill out so many pages?’ It didn’t make sense to me. But I think it’s to see how badly you want it. I could have been discouraged and just said, ‘Forget it.’ But just because it was so lengthy, I decided, ‘I’m going to do this and they’re going to take me.’

“After the application, there’s a newbie puzzle, and that is a real brain twister. Then you go down for the written assessment and the technical assessment. And then once you’re done with that, they call you back for the interview.”

icstarg 0

Da Mobile App

I snag myself a snack from a passing tray and ask Quashe׳, “What’s with all these booths scattered around the place—all them people waitin’ in line?”

“Interns are trying to talk to CIOs,” he says. “Consulting firms too. They’re trying to get their idea out there and CIOs of all sorts are right here to listen.”

“So what about your mobile app?”

“It’s designed for 5-9 year olds to become junior scientists. Kids create an avatar. They’ll see science projects based on fire, water, electricity. Everything about it is going to be virtual. You get to play around with these things and the beautiful thing about it is that when you want to mix two compounds together, you can just shake your phone and you’ll be participating. Let’s say two sets of wires are not UL safe—that’s out of spec. So your avatar goes to touch the wire and gets a shock.”

“D’ya shock the kid’s hand?”

“Oh, no . . . no-no-no.” That deep bass again.

“Maybe give ‘em a vibration?.”

“We can do that. There are a lot of things we’re going into but at the same time we have to focus on one key area: You know how you always tell your kid, ‘Don’t touch the stove, because it’s hot.’ Well now we have to deal with, ‘Can you touch the stove handle? Is it UL safe? Is it UL approved?’

“Sounds kinda elaborate as a mobile app. So what’s your personal goal when ya graduate?

“My personal goal is to find a decent company that has a solid culture that will actually cultivate what I already know. Basically somewhere I can grow.

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Da High Tea

I asks Vera, “When you was at i.c.stars, what was yer favorite part o’ the day?”

“We have what we call High Tea. Celebrities come—we call CIOs celebrities—and they tell us their stories. But first, each team member pours tea for the team member on their left and introduces that team member to the CIO and it goes around the table. We don’t talk about ourselves—we talk about the person whose cup we fill—what he does, what his likes are, what his super thoughts are, what he’s going to do when he graduates i.c.stars and why they should hire him. Just to go through that phenomenon, it will blow your mind. It is just something that you do not get used to. You need to come to see a High Tea for yourself.”

“Well, I dunno…  That’s all they serve?  Tea, I mean?”

“Just tea.”

“Hmff.” I stroke my chin to make her feel like I’m thinkin’ real hard about it, but to me it’s a no-brainer. I wanna check the place out anyhow. “Okay, you got me. Lemme know when I can come.”

GO TO PART 3 – THE APPRENTICE MEETS DIGITAL BOOT CAMP

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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Da Contacts

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under App, big money, Characters, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Christmas, city, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, i.c.stars, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, jobs, loop lonagan, Mobile, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, Social Entrepreneur, The City

TALENT HIDES

icstarg 10aTechBash – Part 1

By Loop Lonagan,

as told to John Jonelis –

 I feel the bite of Christmas in the air. It’s the season o’ giving. I’m here at TechBash coverin’ fer Da May Report but I never seen an event like this before. Right away, I get hit with pounding music, flashing lights and maybe a couple thousand er more people. Place is fulla bigshots.  So many C-level execs at one party—mosta them CIOs o’ big corporations. And the food and open flowing bar. I mean, this is a HUGE party that puts Dennis Koslowski and Tyco to shame—but this one’s legit. Lemme tell you about it:

icstarg 2b

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Talent Hides

You know where talent hides? In places where people got no hope. In the tough neighborhoods with lousy schools, worn-out housing, and alotta crime, gangs, ‘n’ drugs. Yeah, talent hides real good in them places ‘cause so many people don’t know they got potential.

A gal named Sandee Kastrul came across this idea:  There’s more talent here than in all o’ them comfy middle class suburbs or even at the universities. And there’s people here with a whole lot more inner strength than them soft-living places, too. We got lotsa neighborhoods like this right here in Chicago. Yeah, it’s still a city o’ neighborhoods—nothin’s changed much since the FIRST Mayor Daley.

What that means is there’s a huge population o’ smart people them big companies don’t know nothin’ about. And the companies wanna find out who them people are. They wanna do that in the worst way. That’s the genius o’ this thing. So Sandee co-founded i.c.stars to make it happen and throws dis big TechBash party every year along with alotta other events.

i.c.stars is a place where raw corporate greed and avarice can do some good in this rough old world. That’s right—this ain’t no charity organization—it’s an opportunity fer big business.  A company that wants in on this thing hasta participate and support i.c.stars if dey want a good outcome. And why not?

  • It’s better than outsourcing yer executive search, ‘cause you get to know the applicants up-close ‘n’ personal.
  • You get yer tech projects done cheap ‘cause them projects turn into curriculum fer the i.c.stars interns.
  • And that means the interns get paid t’ learn, so it’s a big opportunity fer them too. Thousands apply every year.

Big business knows a good deal when they see it and so do smart people looking fer a career. The whole idea’s brilliant! What we’re lookin’ at here is somethin’ that’s gonna grow into a self-sustaining social enterprise.  That’s like a gift to ever’body.  Hey—like I told ya, it’s Christmastime!

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Da Event

So all deeze huge companies come to this party fer what they want most—TALENT. That’s somethin’ that’s always hard t’ find.icstarg 9a And at dis TechBash event, Da Talent can talk one-on-one with Da Top Brass—if they can make themselves heard in all this hubbub. I’m talkin’ here about executives that most folks never even get to meet. Believe it er not, these C-levels bigshots even cough up their contact info and follow up with these interns personal-like.

i.c.stars stands for inner-city computer stars, and from the look of it, there’s lotsa them kinda folks here. All the interns and alums is wearin’ star-shaped badges that flash colored lights so it isn’t hard t’ spot ‘em.

QuasheI meet one intern that’s built like a football player in a good suit. Name of Quashe Granville [pronounced QUAH-SHAY] ‘n’ he’s got a voice dat rumbles like James Earl Jones. I’m expectin’ to hear somethin’ like “Luke, I am your father,” but he’s real professional. So I asks him, how does i.c.stars really work? Is it some kinda incubator?

“Yes. It’s not like a traditional college,” he says.  “You get the tools and everything you need but it’s largely self-taught. When it comes to computer languages—jQuery, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails—in order to learn those, it’s about what you put into it. You get out of it what you put in.”

Man, I love listenin’ to that huge voice.

icstarg 1b

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Who Gets In?

I run into Jerry Johnson, their Candidate Relations Manager, ‘n’ ask him how hard it is to get into dis program.

“It’s 20 out of 3000.”

That sends me reeling ‘n’ I almost spill my free scotch ‘n’ soda. A waiter comes by with a tray o’ food ‘n’ I wolf down some carbs ‘n’ protein. “Hey Jerry,” I say, “That’s a hellovalot tougher than getting into the U of C.” I say that while munching on somethin’ that tastes real good. I don’t know what I’m eatin’ but it’s great.  Summa them Hors d’oeuvres, I guess.

Quashe pipes in: “It might be hard, but out of those 3000 I can genuinely say 2600 eliminate themselves because they don’t want to go through the process. So then it’s Jerry’s job to sift through the other 400.”

So I ask: “The ones with enough hope dat you can make ‘em believe?”

Jerry comes right back: “The ones that have the fortitude to do what we ask them to do.”

“So whadaya look for in yer applicants?”

“Resiliency—that’s the best thing. Creative thinking. We have a lot of different logic puzzles. We have coding exercises if people have never done it. It’s all resiliency built.”

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Da Result

VeraI meet an alum named Vera Shabazz [pronounce SHUH-BAAZ] and what she says is somethin’ worth hearin’:

“Anything i.c.stars does, I’m behind 100%. Before them I lost my job and had no inkling of what I was going to do. Then I found i.c.stars. They pay you $150 a week just to come and learn.

“It’s not easy. This is a tough job and they treat it like a job. It is very, very tough. You have to go through a lot of training. At first I was afraid. I’d never done it before.”

I look her in the eye and decide this gal means what she says. So I put it to her, “Ain’t that an awful huge learning curve to overcome.”

“It was huge. It was HUGE. And to tell you I was afraid is an understatement. But my colleagues were so phenomenal. They helped to bring me through what I did not know and they erased all my fears.

“I didn’t know anything about technology. Now, I work with United’s 55,000 employees. Whenever something goes down, they call us. A ticket agent might say, ‘The computer isn’t working—the printer isn’t working—I’m getting an error message or I’m getting this or I’m getting that.’ With i.c.stars I learned how to drill down. How to ask, ‘What are you seeing? What is happening? What did it do first? What did you do first?’ And it calms them down that we know what we’re doing. They can help their passengers board their airplanes on time.

Whatever they call me with, I’m able to decipher and figure out what they need, all because of i.c.stars.

Now Vera’s givin’ back by supportin’ Virginias House. They help survivors of domestic violence.

Checkout dis great video on i.c.stars:

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GO TO PART 2 – GIVING BACK

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Contacts

i.c.starswww.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul – sKastrul@icstars.org

Jerry Johnson – Jjohnson@icstars.org

Quashe’ E Granville – QuasheGranville@gmail.com

Vera Sabazz – vaShabazz@VirginiaHouseInc2.com

Vera’s outreach: Virginias House – http://VirginiasHouseInc2.com
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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

14 Comments

Filed under big money, Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Christmas, city, Consulting, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, Homeless, i.c.stars, Impact Investing, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Internet Marketing, jobs, loop lonagan, Marketing, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, philanthropist, philanthropy, public servants, Social Entrepreneur, Social Media, Software