Showcasing How Orlando is Growing from Tourism to Tech

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Growing up in Orlando always had it’s advantages. School field trips to Disney and other amusement parks, just starts that list. But, one thing that ALWAYS annoyed me was that whenever I met anyone new, inevitably they would ask, “So let me guess, you go to Disney, like everyday? Right?”

When I returned home I expected to see an Orlando wasting away in the shadow of the Mouse, with few opportunities to be a part of something bigger than a paycheck. But in the last two months I’ve discovered this, this incredible burgeoning tech industry. Who knew that the land of rest and relaxation could possibly be home to a growing number of tech startups?

OTW_Logo_FINAL_Yellow_Background canvs-logo-resized 1MillionCupsOrl EnvyLabs-logo-color-medium-transparent-300x159 This weekend, kicks off the first annual Orlando Tech Week, where a collaboration of events will be showcasing what this startup tech industry has to offer. I will be tweeting throughout the week so follow my handle @theMTakeover and will be providing a recap at the end of next week. If you are within safe travel distance it is not to late to get your tickets to hear from senior level execs from Mashable, Priceline.com, ESPN, Code School, NBC Universal, and many many others. Below I’ve pasted the Agenda as seen on Orlando Tech Week’s Website where you can get the most up to date information and buy tickets. See you there!

Agenda

September 27, 2014
BARCAMP ORLANDO
9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Church Street , Cheyenne Saloon
September 29, 2014
8:00 am – 1:00 pm 
September 30, 2014
8:00 am – 3:00 pm
ISUMMIT
Church Street
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
PROCESSING ORLANDO: ART, GADGETS, AND TECH

Church Street Exchange
Nathan SelikoffNathan Selikoff                 Orlando TechOrlando TechMore info
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
SCHWARTZ TECH AWARDS

Orchid Garden
October 1, 2014
9:00 am – 11:00 am
1 MILLION CUPS ORLANDO

Rollins College
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
EQUITY CROWDFUNDING
Church Street Exchange
Ryan FeitRyan Feit                       Orlando TechOrlando TechMore info
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
STARTUP SHOWCASE
Ceviche Tapas Orlando
Orlando TechOrlando Tech                 IndienomiconIndienomiconMore info
October 2, 2014
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
LOWCOUNTRY BOIL & TECH MEETUP

Lake Eola Amphitheater
October 3, 2014
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
T-PARTY

The Veranda

Defining Social Innovation and How to Get Paid to Do It

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a dear friend of mine, Brian Bergman, the Assistant Director for the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Miami University. As an alumnus of Miami University, Brian explored his interests in international politics through course work as well as an immersion experience in Geneva, Switzerland. After discovering that he was more interested in issues regarding poverty, Brian began the move away from “big table” politics and toward international development issues. Obtaining his Master’s in International Development from the University of Pittsburgh allowed him to do just that. Approaching graduation, one of Brian’s professors from Miami, who had been a mentor to him since his senior year, had him join his team.

Brian Bergman

For the past two years Brian has contributed to Miami’s training, curriculum development, and three academic studies on social entrepreneurship. Brian’s experience so far has allowed him to develop several great nuggets of wisdom for anyone wanting to pursue a meaningful life.

On Brian’s Career Path

I always went after personal growth opportunities. Going to Geneva was an opportunity for me to take my first international flight, going to Kenya was an opportunity for me to live in a mud hut. Those experiences allowed me to grow as a person and learn more about my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve also been lucky enough to have people who encouraged me to always have a couple of things lined up just in case the plan fell like dominoes.

On What You Need to be Successful in Social Innovation

First, a functional business background, not like “the man” type of business, but having a strong understanding of how a business works because everything needs have money to operate, even non-profits. Lean Startup Canvas is the bedrock of our curriculum. Second, not being afraid of numbers. Understanding how to use the right test for the right things is critical for conducting research. Third, knowing how technology works is crucial, you’ve got understand how the whole system works because technology is literally in everything that we do. Fourth, know what you are good at and keep developing those skills. When you go to work somewhere, there’s going to be a guy who loves doing the things that you may not be as good at so focus on just being you.

Top Tips for Any Social Entrepreneur

First, ask yourself what you are most passionate about. Then find out, what is the market? Who are the non-profits? What is the government doing? Are there gaps?  If there’s a gap, that’s where you opportunity lies.

Second, burnout is real. Everyone wants to be around positive people so you have to find ways to disconnect from the work. For example, I like to play ice hockey. When you are playing ice hockey you can’t think of anything else or you’ll get seriously injured.

Third, and possibly most important, is learn how to network. For every 100 contacts you have, you will have 2 to 3 really close contacts that can help guide you as you are developing your idea. For me, those close contacts have had the greatest impact and I wouldn’t be here without them.

Pursuing a career in social innovation is particularly challenging as it is a relatively newer field. In addition to following Brian’s advice, check out The Stanford Social Innovation Review to keep up to date with current trends. Are you working in Social Innovation? Share your wisdom below in the comments.

My Take on Central Florida’s Commuter Train – Sunrail

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It’s finally here!! After years of negotiating, being used as a political chess piece and deprived of federal funding the Sunrail is finally a running functioning commuter train. Last Friday, I rode it for the first time from the Winter Park Station to Church Street Station. Although there is plenty of room for improvement, overall it was FAR less stressful than driving and I plan to take it again in the future. Sunrail, here is my constructive feedback:

Things I loved

    • It’s sooooo cheap –  I paid $3.75 roundtrip, a fraction of the cost of parking in a garage downtown.
    • It’s so clean – Yes, I know it’s new, but I guess I was expecting litter or spill stains.
    • It makes you happier to ride it – In other cities you are traveling underground so you can actually see what you are passing.
    • It saves you from having to find parking … and then losing your car – Finding parking in Orlando can set off a minor heart attack. Then losing your white car in the huge parking lot can ruin any good day.
    • You are around people – driving in your car is a very solitary activity. It’s great for some alone time, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities in the Central Florida area where you feel like you are a member of a larger community.

Things that need improvement

  • Collecting fares To purchase a ticket, you go to a kiosk and use your debit or credit card. No cash option is a barrier, especially for tourists. Then, you have to find a cute yellow box to the left or right of the kiosk and tap your ticket before and after you board the train. The unmanned station, the lack of partitions makes for plenty of opportunities to grab a free ride. Admittedly, I had no clue how it worked so I didn’t tap in for my ride to Church Street. Small a request – have that friendly voice on the loud speaker go over those directions or have them written so people can actually pay for the service.
  • That good awful siren – that horrible fire drill sound had me looking for the nearest exit off the outdoor platform, until I realized that the train was approaching. A friendly voice announcing the arrival of the train might be enough and less torture on the ear drums.
  • Pedestrian walkways – moving large numbers of people around safely is one thing. If we are being encouraged to forgo our cars, more pedestrian crossings, especially when leaving the station, should be put a bit higher on the priority list.
  • Frequency – I understand that this is just the beginning, but trains have got to be running more often if you want community buy in. I had to wait 20 minutes on my way to Church Street and 30 minutes on my way back. If I had a tight schedule, I wouldn’t even consider taking the Sunrail.
  • It doesn’t run at night – The last train leaves Church Street at 9:25 pm. If you are going to a concert, a basketball game, or any other event, it’s not an option and a it is a missed revenue opportunity.

Have you ridden the Sunrail? Have you enjoyed the experience? Have I missed any areas of improvement? Comment below or tweet to @themtakeover.

Top 5 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Big Adventure

When I finally decided to pack my bags and move to Haiti, I didn’t just hop on a plane and wing it. I tried to be strategic enough to avoid hang ups while still keeping some available space for spontaneity. If you are considering on making the big move, especially a foreign country here are some helpful tips to save yourself some major headaches. 

ForiegnMoney
Photo Credit: epSos .de

1. Have enough money saved to pay your obligations. I have some pretty hefty student loan debt and while I often opt for the fun life adventure instead of becoming debt free in 3 years, I always, always, ALWAYS pay my loans. When I took the leap of faith, I made sure I had at least enough money to cover my loan payments for the next three months. You don’t want to be visiting your family on a break to then have the uncomfortable conversation as to why collections has been calling them.

AsiaFarmerPhone
Photo Credit: Ken Banks

2. Contact as many people you know there as possible, even if it is one person. Arriving in a foreign country with a month’s worth of stuff with no one to meet you or a plan, can leave you extremely vulnerable (more on how I learned that another time). Even if you don’t stay with this person, having a friendly face that you can communicate with upon your arrival will ease the already present anxiety. If you are looking for a job, this becomes extremely important as your contact can help you navigate the hiring system and maybe even help you network.

Passports
Photo Credit: J Aaron Farr

3. If you are going abroad, make sure your passport does not expire for at least 3 months. Most countries won’t let you through the airport if your passport is set to expire in three months so save yourself the flight change fees and up date your passport. Also make a copy of that first page. In the countries I’ve visited, a form of identification is needed to buy cellphones, change money, etc. Reduce the risk of losing your passport by carrying a printout, and it will save you time in case you need to replace your passport.

Photo Credit: JannRiik
Photo Credit: JannRiik

4. Give yourself permission to enjoy some of your favorite things. Moving to another country, city, or state will mean that you won’t have the same access to your favorite things. When you have one of those days where you the cashier gets frustrated with your thick American accent, or the power goes out while you were writing the longest email of your life on a desktop, an overpriced tub of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food may be the thing you need to keep you sane. You already get the gold star for taking the leap, so be kind to yourself and pay extra attention to self care. For me, reading books (thank you, Kindle), watching movies (thank you, Netflix), or “Hanging out” with a friend or two (thank you, Google) were my life savers.

Journals
Photo credit: Wen Long

5. Keep a journal, not only to help you remember the cool things you did 10 years from now, but to off load whatever you don’t feel like sharing out loud. It doesn’t even have to be full sentences, it can even be ticket stubs or business cards. There are a lot of changes that you’ll be experiencing so keeping track of them will help you track the progress you’ve made.

Keeping things open ended and keeping a positive attitude will help you bounce back from those days that just don’t go your way. Now get back to packing, your adventure awaits.

Leaving everything you know to embark on an adventure or just came back from one? Share your top tips for how you made it through.