Monday, April 04, 2011

Minnesota High Tech Association and Itasca Project Should Coordinate Calendars

Recently I have been privileged to have been invited to, what I consider, important events that offer fantastic networking and learning opportunities.  these events are all pushing for participation from the same core audience, and they are all doing their own part to move the region toward its goal of returning to its former glory as the preeminent entrepreneurial and economic development hub of the Midwest.  In fact, in the next two weeks, there are three such events on my calendar. (though only two are listed on the Tech.MN calendar... The only event calendar that really matters to me.)

April 6th is the Start Up America forum(Invite Only), hosted by Medtronic and, ostensibly, sponsored by the Whitehouse.  It was a complete cluster #@%$#, from a planning standpoint, having been slapped together by the local SBA, while (I guess) trying to coordinate with the feds.  Either way, they initially gave local folks about 24 hours to respond with their interest in getting an invite, then told everyone "we'll let you know if you get in."  It was only after some pressure exerted by the Minneapolis mayors office and our friends at the Science and Technology Authority that they extended the deadline a couple of days.  I was lucky enough to snag one of the coveted spots, so I guess I'll have to put on a suit Wednesday morning.

I am excited to get to be in the room with some pretty powerful folks (or so we were led to believe) from DC, like:

  • Teresa Rae (Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office)
  • Winslow Sargeant (Chief Counsel for Advocacy for the US Small Business Administration)
  • Michael Fitzpatrick (Associate Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs)

I'm not sure what the point of all this is, other than a big photo opportunity (for us and them.)  and I don't know what can be accomplished other than just talking about issues that everyone already knows about.  However, one thing I will commend them on; at least they picked a day when there wasn't much else going on.

The same can't be said for the folks at the Itasca Project.  Getting an invite to participate in the Itasca Project's "Minneapolis - St. Paul Regional Economic Development Forum" was, for me, a huge deal.  It represents another step in my ultimate strategy of total regional, (and, eventually, Global) recognition/domination for CaSTT.  I hope to someday have CaSTT be on par with more conspicuous local companies, who's leaders are also the (seemingly secret) leaders of Itasca.

The Itasca Project's membership list reads like a who's-who list of local CEO's, business leaders and political dignitaries. (that is if you can piece together its membership from old news articles and word-of-mouth accounts of its actions)  It's obvious influence is as unassailable, as its membership-list is closely-guarded.  It is kind of like an exclusive fraternity of prominence and power for which there is no application, no secret handshake and no defined procedure to follow if one wishes to join.  One day, you just get an email saying your are invited to an Itasca Project event, then... (well... I don't know what happens then, but I'll let you know).

Unfortunately, the invitation that I received from Itasca is for an event on April 14th, the same day as the MHTA is having their Annual Spring Conference; arguably the biggest, most important event that they sponsor each year.  The Minnesota High tech Association represents the preeminent group of companies in the world of technology in our region and many of whom are members of various Itasca Project Task Forces. These folks are the  players in the world of Minnesota business and their influence is undeniable. 

With this as a backdrop, I wonder how it is even possible that the folks planning the Itasca Project event didn't consult someone at MHTA, or at least check the calendar on Tech.MN to find out if there was anything else going happening on the 14th, that might jeopardize the attendance at their own event.

So, I am calling on the organizers of the Itasca Project event to at least find out if the MHTA can pull some strings and squeeze the Regional Economic forum into its agenda, or at least into the same building (It's at the Minneapolis Convention Center, so there is probably room). this would enable those of us who would like to attend both events, which seem to have complimentary goals, to do so.

I am truly appreciative of the opportunity that I have to represent Minnesota Tech Startup Entrepreneurs at important events such as these, but the failure to communicate, and coordinate represents that which is broken in our economic development ecosystem.  It will be awesome if, someday, a group like Launch.MN figures out a way to herd all of these cats and get them to coordinate their efforts under a single umbrella-organization, so we can finally start working together instead of duplicating efforts and wasting opportunities.

Oh, and Itasca...Update your website.  I know you are important people with busy lives and everything... but the newest info is from three years ago.

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Darren Cox

Darren Cox
Founder and Chief Evangelist - CaSTT - Commerce and Search for Technology Transfer