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TechValley New Tech Meetup – The Week-Late Report

So last Thursday night, I headed up to Albany for the inaugural TechValley New Tech Meetup.  I was  cautiously optimistic, thinking there are  plenty of potentially interested folks in the region looking for more opportunities to network and socialize, but wondering why it took someone from the Bay Area to put it together (there are certainly other tech-orientated gatherings in the area, but most seem to be either technology-specific or aimed more at collecting business cards than talking tech.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find about 20 people from a variety of backgrounds (marketers, programmers, journalists, IBMers, economic development folks, and a surgical resident!) turn out for the event. Myles Weissleder leads the large SF New Tech Meetup and was also encouraged by the turnout. He proved to be a great facilitator.

Rob Safuto, a blogger, podcaster gave a presentation on RawVoice and Blubrry, the podcasting platform, community, and analytics business for which he serves as marketer. There was interesting stuff there for podcast consumers (pardon the politically incorrect term) and producers alike.

There was also some general discussion of the state of TechValley and what needs to happen to spur more innovation and startups. There was a general consensus that we’re doing the big things right (like tax incentives and nurturing RPI and other great institutions) to land the chip makers and nanotech researchers, but that more needs to be done to build out the tech economy to encourage more local entrepreneurship. More on that from me later, and more from a CEG online forum on the topic from Tuesday. (It was nice to see CEG represented at the Meetup even it could be viewed as competition for its own TechConnex Fiestas. Their presence says to me that they understand that there’s more need for this kind of event than any one group can accommodate. The more the merrier.)

All in all, an encouraging start, even if it does involve an hour-plus drive north. I’m hoping to get something related going closer to home sometime soon. Thanks to Myles, Rob, and everyone else who turned out. See you in October.

VC Money into TechValley but a Trickle

It’s interesting that this Times Union story on the lack of VC investment comes on the eve of the Tech Valley’s first New Tech Meetup. Of course, there already networking opportunities for the region’s tech community (broad ones like TechConnex, and narrow-interest ones like the TechValley Ruby Brigade).

But it’s clear that there’s something missing from the tech ecosystem here that’s preventing startups from bubbling up here in a significant number. We’ve got the big boys like IBM and Semetech and (someday maybe, AMD), and great universities, but until we get more examples of a few smart people coming together around a shared passion for a great idea, TechValley will be little more than a marketing slogan. Let’s hope this Meetup helps do its small part to help get some ideas, connections, and companies going.

TechValley Meetup

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…is scheduled for this Thursday, Aug. 23 at 7pm at Jillian’s in Albany. If you’re in the area, try and make it. Hope to see you there.

Sour Apples

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I’m surprised and disappointed that Apple, the emblem of hip, has trotted out this moldy hunk of marketing copy cheese.  And with the new generation of iMacs, the minimalist aesthetic seems to be treading into “cold and barren” territory. This looks like the machine Mussolini would use. Come to think of it, same goes for the tag line.

IBM Lays Off 300 in mid-Hudson

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Just days after a local economic development official engaged in a round of happy talk, word comes that 300 IBMers in Dutchess County, mostly at the East Fishkill microelectronics plant, will lose their jobs. (At about 4 percent of the 7,000 local employment base I’ve repeatedly seen cited, it appears to be the biggest round of layoffs by IBM since the mid-90s.)

IBM does indeed make Dutchess the technology hub of the region, but there’s no guarantee things will stay that way. That’s why over-reliance on IBM and other Fortune 500 companies is a flawed strategy. We need more efforts toward making the area hospitable to entrepreneurs and the startups that can be the real job and development engines. Big Blue is a great base to build of off, but it alone can’t be expected to carry the local technology sector, let alone the whole local economy.

Can Solar Boost TechCity?

techcity1.jpgKingston’s TechCity has a new tenant in the newly-formed Solar Energy Consortium, headed by retired IBM-VP Vincent Cozzolino. This piece from the Daily Freeman is predictably boosterish, and there is reason for optimism. But there are also a lot of unanswered questions. It’s unclear exactly what the consortium will do: research? manufacturing? marketing? It’s also heavily (if not totally) reliant on state and federal money. As the story says: “Significant funding issues are still being worked out.” The Record story has a few more details, saying the group is looking for $136 million over five years. Yikes! Let’s hope they bring some private money in to ensure better accountability and returns.

Another eybrow-raiser: a 36-member board of directors. I’m sure they’re all smart and accomplished, but a board that big sounds like a recipe for inaction.

The consortium will take 300K square feet at the former IBM campus, a decent dent in the total 2.5 million square feet of space  in 27 buildings on about 260 acres. According to the TechCity site,  there are currently nine tenants, mostly small and medium-sized businesses, though IBM still maintains a presence and Bank of America is there, too. I attended a Hudson Valley Center for Innovation event there in March, and found the vast emptiness of the campus a bit depressing. Anything that will get some warm bodies into TechCity should have at least some upside.

TechValley Links (Oink Oink Edition)

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                                                         Originally uploaded to Flickr by jdlasica

Local Pork – $200K of federal money tagged for Albany Wi-Fi.

BBQ’d Pork – TechConnex summer BBQ networking event Thursday, July 19 in Renssealer.


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