This spring, I gave a talk at an agile conference about blameless culture. During the presentation, I asked, by a show of hands, how many people work in a culture ruled by fear. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, well over half the crowd raised their hands.
It’s a common story in startup culture: people comfortable with the risks of starting a new business often have a background in which they became comfortable with chaos, whether that experience was a difficult early start in life or work in the military. Red Hat’s Chris Short is a disabled veteran whose service-connected injuries have taken years to manage. Short is a DevOps professional turned marketer and community advocate as Principal Technical Marketing Manager for Cloud Platforms at Red Hat. He is a Cloud Native Computing Foundation Ambassador, Kubernetes SIG-ContribEx member, a public speaker and blogger, founder of DevOps’ish, and believer in open source principles bettering interactions and promoting conversations.
Human Element, of Top 20 Fastest Growing Companies in Michigan, Creates The Kind of Culture They Want To Stay In
“We’ve been experiencing 3-4 years of 30% growth rate year over year,” Human Element’s Ben Lorenz tells us. “We’ve been an Inc 5000 company 3 years in a row and last year were named one of the Top 20 fastest growing companies in Michigan.” Ann Arbor is one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the Midwest, but what explains some companies like Human Element growing so much more quickly than others? To some extent, it’s positioning and the market they’re in. It’s no secret that AI companies are hot, as well as security. An e-commerce strategy company like Human Element has a lot of work to do catching up Midwest companies to digital business processes and online sales. But that’s not all it is.
Continuing our series on podcasts in the Michigan tech scene is Dave Haviland, new host of the SPARK.Grow podcast sponsored by Ann Arbor SPARK that interviews executives around the Ann Arbor business community. Haviland is an executive coach through Phimation Strategy Group to second-stage tech company founders and executive teams in the Ann Arbor area. We found him in his offices on the 8th floor of the First National Building on Main Street and Liberty, which has a lovely view of downtown.
On the day we met him, local IT security tech consultant Tim Marsh was on the phone dealing with a data breach for Equifax. He’s a consultant with 20 years of experience working in Fortune10 IT including working for Ford, Hewlett Packard, and GE most recently. But that’s not all he does. In addition to his work as founder of consultancy ApprenTek, Tim Marsh recruits young local talent out of Michigan colleges like Eastern Michigan, the University of Michigan, Concordia, Western, and Michigan Tech for Fortune500 tech support jobs. “I recruit for Fortune500 companies for short-term engagements,” he tells us, “and also local recruiting for young people getting into tech support.”
Doug Neal has seen a lot change in the Ann Arbor and Midwest tech scene in the last few years. He is a managing director at eLab, a VC fund based in both Ann Arbor and Palo Alto in Silicon Valley that focuses on early stage AI and machine learning companies, the Internet of Things,…
Beach cleanups with OSHKI are listed on the company’s social media. This summer, they started sending plastic waste collected from these cleanups directly to their new manufacturer in North Carolina. “It’s a hands-on opportunity for customers to see what we’re doing,” Riegler says. “We might do another cleanup in September, definitely another one next summer (when he’s out of school for the summer!) and maybe expand to other towns.” Meanwhile, if you’d like to support efforts to clean up the Great Lakes, Riegler recommends donating to the Alliance for the Great Lakes and getting involved with Adopt a Beach programs. Most trash in Muskegon builds up in areas that trap debris like piers or the large metal structures off the beach in Muskegon Riegler says used to be used for large-scale boating. He times cleanups after festivals to catch more waste, which often is as small as plastic pieces the size of a dime and hard to catch. This, of course, gets into fish and pollutes the $13 billion fishing industry. “I could go on,” Riegler says. For now, he finds e-commerce not only convenient as a retail channel but the best way to use technology because “it tells our whole story with video integration,” he says. “The full experience is on the site.”
Young entrepreneurs are pouring out of tech towns these days. If the towns are lucky, they retain many of them now that the Midwest and other places outside Silicon Valley are reviving and affordable spaces to grow a business. The University of Michigan, ranked #1-rated ecosystem for undergrad student entrepreneurs by Princeton Review, is leading the way in this shift in startup culture across the U.S.. That’s why successful serial entrepreneurs like Jim Price were brought on board, to mentor the next generation of founders. Price is Entrepreneurial Studies Faculty & Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and he’s a big connector and mentor for young entrepreneurs starting out in Ann Arbor, with a background that spans coasts, tech and engineering, and teaching. He’s also a really fun guy we’ve watched help shift the entrepreneurial environment in Ann Arbor through generous mentorship, so we caught up with him in his office at the University of Michigan to ask him what led him to Ann Arbor and what trends he’s seeing these days in business and entrepreneurship.
Nice to see so many familiar tech faces this morning as Dr. Rob Pasick’s monthly Leaders Connect networking breakfast hosted Google at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. The theme? Culture and innovation at the tech giant, which recently announced plans to expand its Ann Arbor office on Traverwood as well as its Detroit Little Caesar’s Arena campus to a third floor. Kicking off this event, Dr. Rob offered the group what he offers his students at the University of Michigan, an exercise in mindfulness. “Every day we journal,” he said, “and I encourage you to set the intention. What would make today a good day?…. And part two of this exercise is to reflect. If you think about your day yesterday, what do you appreciate? I call those my abundances. What lesson did you learn?”
It’s not uncommon for people with a degree in music to end up in tech, not just for the jobs but because people with musical training often have a creative way of thinking that translates beautifully to coding or engineering. That was the case with Mobile Mondays meetup organizer Rob Baxtresser, who is VP of…