1. You’re a man of many ventures. Tell us what you have on your plate at the moment. My current project is The Innovation REDI Project, a global model of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development. The developed model binds educational institutions (secondary, higher) to economic development through entrepreneurship. Over the past few months, I’ve been traveling to colleges/universities, high schools, and communities promoting the #BOOM events and encouraging each entity/group/organization to embrace entrepreneurship as a vital component of job creation and economic development.
2. What differences should people familiar with #BOOM expect to see at the next #BOOM event? Size. With the anticipated growth of #BOOM, we have moved the event to the Holiday Inn. Sarah Hill has graciously agreed to emcee the event again, and we will be using the pioneered approach of Google+ Hangout sessions in collaboration with Columbia Access Television. The audience size is anticipated to be 600 in-seat participants and thousands to join via the live Internet feed. The educational consortium of the #BOOM Pitch Competition has also grown in size. In total, there will be 70-plus pitches given in one location, in one day, all focusing on future job growth for Missouri.
3. Why regional economic development? Doesn’t Columbia still have a ways to go in its own right? I am a strong advocate of collaboration, and I have embraced a completely different philosophical approach to economic development and education in the 21st century. My philosophy is to create a culture of entrepreneurship rather than a competition among entrepreneurs. Given today’s global economy, I embrace the concept of being competitive through collaboration. Mid-Missouri is rapidly emerging as one of the premier entrepreneurial epicenters in the United States, and it is our collaborative approach that makes our model unique and effective.
4. What is Columbia missing in regard to innovation opportunities? Access to seed funding to enhance the accelerated growth of startup ventures is a critical need for local and regional economic growth. Columbia does an amazing job of starting up companies, and we have an abundance of events and resources that greatly aid these efforts. However, there is a need for a developed strategy to accelerate these startup ventures to reap the benefits of their job creation.
5. Tell us about Invent Yourself LLC. How does that fit in to the variety of activities you’re involved in now? Currently, I am also the founder and CEO of Invent Yourself LLC. Through my company, I help people, organizations and communities become innovation ready in the social-era economy. In addition to working with clients (from Fortune 500 to startups) on strategic initiatives, I also provide consulting, lecture and leadership training opportunities for a variety of clientele.
6. Your goal is to fundraise more than $1 million for the upcoming #BOOM and Idea Bounce events. Where will this money go? The funding for the project will be allocated to the various components of the economic development model. Essentially, half of the funding will execute the innovation and startup components of the model; the other half of the funding will execute the acceleration and job creation components. I am also currently working in conjunction with the #BOOM Task Force on a capital campaign to support these efforts that, when successful, will be of great benefit to the regional economy.
7. Why do you think it’s important for Columbia to embrace and support entrepreneurship? The backbone of Columbia’s economy is based on entrepreneurship. There are thousands of entrepreneurs and small-business owners in our community, and they are the vital components of the community’s economic base. It’s who we are as a community, it’s what we do exceptionally well, and these individuals are who make Columbia