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Brian Zuercher

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I find nothing more inspiring than entrepreneur stories that involve founders deciding not just to pursue their dream business, but also triggering a major life changing moment.  So many of us have had that moment  during our commute to or from work where we  thought about just quitting and dedicating our time to something we are more passionate about.  Imagine having that thought, then acting on it, and also bringing your sister along for the ride.

That’s how Kelly and Rhiannon’s story starts. Now they are the owners of Mat Happy Yoga in Hilliard.

Distinguishing Through Personalization 

There are a lot of Yoga studios and at first glance they might all look the same, but that is far from the truth.  It’s easy to forget that there  is a wide spectrum of Yoga practices  from beginner flow series to hardcore over 100 degree 90-minute Bikram series.  Practice type is only one of the many different characteristics that a studio may have, aspects like studio location and size also play major factors in differentiating studios from each other.

Mat Happy’s clear distinguishing factor is how Kelly and Rhiannon have built the community.  These two Yoga leaders know exactly what the members need and want.  This means that they have to  not only run the business, but also invest in getting to know the members personally.  “It’s really friendly – we’ve tried hard to roll out the welcome wagon from day one, and that has translated into friendships, camaraderie and good feels when you walk through the door. […]we strive to make this everyone’s ‘happy place.'”

They serve Yogis who range from first timers to those working to perfect their practice. “One of our greatest joys has been to watch our students grow.” Part of growing in a safe and happy place means trying new things. Kelly and Rhiannon are hoping to help their members expand their horizons. “We’ve also found that our students are very open to trying new ways of exploring yoga. This fall we are including a few workshops on meditation and breath work, and starting Nov. 5th, we are adding Buti yoga to our class offerings (think power yoga meets tribal dance with deep abdominal toning – it’s like dancing on your mat!)”

They understand that their members are often working parents who are taking their precious one or two hours away from family to spend time at Mat Happy.  Having that understanding has helped shape a class offering that fits the members desires and also meets their family schedule needs.

Kelly and Rhiannon are still teaching at the studio, but also have 8 other trainers leading classes.  Classes have expanded in range from flow to Pilates/Yoga fusion and more.  The two are considering how to expand their presence while keeping a focus on their core community.

Even with all of their success, they are constantly reminded of the magnitude of that original decision to strike out on their own:

The biggest challenge is knowing this is your baby, your creation, and you are 100% responsible for it. There are no true “days off.” […] The joys are many. Namely, the ability to help change the lives of others for the better. The people we have met, our instructors and students, and the stories they share, remind us of the impact our work. Yoga attracts good people and we are lucky to have crossed paths with so many.

I don’t know if I was alone in my conflict over the titling of ‘Rise of the Rest’ used by Steve Case and the Revolution Ventures team for their tour around middle America.  This isn’t the fault of Case or anyone at Revolution Ventures, they have all good intentions with the title, this is an issue I struggle with.

The ‘Rest’?  Is that what we are here in Columbus?  The ‘Rest’ feels like second place, third place, or worse… and when accompanied by ‘The Rise,’ it implies that others have already risen and we haven’t.  Clearly I am over thinking this, but it got me thinking more about the issues they were discussing.

The ‘Startup’ system has some inherent class distinction built into it by  design.  Think about a founder’s psyche from day one.  The entrepreneur is seeking funding, support, team members, and believers, to name a few things.  The constant strive for validation is suffocating.

The ‘Rest,’  as designated by Case and the tour, relates to the invested venture capital dollars that are overwhelmingly deployed in companies in Silicon Valley, NYC, and Boston.  This geographical focus doesn’t bother me at all.  I look at that as a bit of a supply and demand economics problem more than explicit geographical discrimination.  The Rise of the of Rest has the following mission statement :

Revolution’s RISE OF THE REST® with Steve Case is a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. Our view is that this is the beginning of a new era for entrepreneurship across the U.S. — high-growth companies can now start and scale anywhere, not just in a few coastal cities. The effort has been praised by leading Democrats and Republicans, as well as businesses leaders across the country.

The focus on ‘high growth’ might be nuanced language, but to me this is a direct reflection on a recent company prototype born out of the internet/software boom. The prototype where a company can reach valuations of a billion dollars in under 10, heck 5, years’ time.  That situation is SUCH an outlier for most companies that it obviously points to the need (and fantasy) for the VC financial model.  Remember, VC’s typically have under 10 years to return capital to their Limited Partners, so it’s ideal to have a major win (unicorns as they say).   PS:  Only DC folks would include a mention of bipartisan praise 😂.

The resounding message I take away from Case’s movement is the idea of inclusion.  The opposite of ‘the rest’ is everyone.  My favorite part of entrepreneurship is its ability to empower anyone to move into whatever socioeconomic position they choose.  I’m not saying it’s easy for everyone, there are many intentional and unintentional biases and discriminatory issues we have to tear down.  As I am able to tear down my own insecurities of not being amongst or accepted by Silicon Valley elites, I am able to find the deeper message of hope and will that Case brought last week.  It’s a reminder to not look to others to validate our abilities or tenacity.  We can define success in our own ways.

I asked Steve Case if he were to return in a year, what impact would he hope to see from his time here.  He said their goal is to elevate the awareness of what is happening in the cities they visit and continue to raise the bar.  Which had me wondering, what do Columbus entrepreneurs  want their community to be and look like in one year, five years, or twenty years?

Kudos to Rev1, Venture Ohio and others who helped make the Rise of the Rest stop a VERY Columbus focused event.  It’s exceptional to be able to show off our city’s prized possessions and people to others.  There is no doubt ‘The Rest’ of the country has no idea that we rose up a long long time ago and continue to all the time.

Often we, as consumers and participants, get caught up in the hype of positive initiatives and don’t ever stop to question their effectiveness.  For example we might not stop to question whether collecting those box tops is really a good way to raise money for schools, or mostly just a great sales boost for General Mills. Or where your donation to the American Red Cross following a natural disaster actually ends up…

With this in mind, we decided to take a quick look at today’s Big Give and see if it is all it is hyped up to be… Here’s the bottom line:  The Big Give is effective, engaging, and worthwhile.

A couple of disclaimers:   1. We are not paid by The Big Give.  2. We are not an authority on charitable giving.  

Does The Big Give’s Model Generate More Funds Than Traditional Charitable Giving?

According to Blackbaud the median charitable donation in 2016 was $178 across measured sectors.  These stats are tough to compare sector vs. sector and it can be hard to account for special events like The Big Give. The Columbus Foundation shared that during the last Big Give, in 2015, 19,900 donors gave a total leveraged amount of $15,015,821. This came from small donations– the median gift size of credit card donations in 2015 was just $50.

Is the takeaway that The Big Give generates a median donation substantially less than national giving?  We don’t believe that to be the case.  According to The Columbus Foundation in 2015 63% of total funds raised during The Big Give were from donor funds and individuals that supported more than one nonprofit.  Our suspicion is that more people who wouldn’t normally give are donating small sums and people are supporting multiple organizations with smaller donations.

That is an impressive story for The Columbus Foundation to be able to tell.  The ability to leverage their big donor contributions to amplify the impact of individual donations across a large swath of organizations is no doubt an economic incentive to donate through The Big Give versus direct.

Is There Really Power in Numbers?

To state the obvious, it’s hard to navigate the wide world of charities. There are myriad  opportunities to donate to worthy groups year round. So what’s the benefit of rounding up a bunch of different groups and fundraising all together?

There’s a couple reasons that this is a good idea. One is that it helps encourage marketers to get involved and to provide more incentive (because of the added exposure).  Some of your favorite local establishments like Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Homage, Donato’s Pizza, Hot Chicken Takeover, White Castle and Piada will help you feel extra good about your donation by providing you with a sweet reward.  This approach stretches your dollars even further. And the smaller organizations benefit from the amplification that these major players provide.  According to the Columbus Foundation every state in the US was represented in the 2015 donor pool — good evidence that the effort has real reach.

Donors should feel good that more of their dollars are not only being matched by the donor pool, and the positive messaging amplified by great local businesses, but also that their money is not being wasted on transaction fees  as the Columbus Foundation covers the processing. Bottom line is that The Big Give is a smart and effective way for Central Ohio Charities to solicit and encourage donations.

Photo Credit: Columbus Early Learning Instagram

For anyone who has been involved in a startup community for more than a few years you might have the same reaction I do when I hear that another accelerators is starting.  In emoji language it’s usually one of (or a combination of ) these: facepalm🤦🏻‍♂️, shoulder shrug 🤷‍♂️, and expressionless face 😑.  It’s nothing against accelerators.  I just feel like  time and resources are being misdirected, even with good intention.

The Accelerator movement was kicked off by Y Combinator in 2005.  Since that time the ‘Accelerator Industry’ has exploded, jumping to over 170 in the US alone.  The Kauffman Foundation published an excellent report outlining the Accelerator industry and growth,  including some eye-opening stats on the volume of Accelerators that have started in the last 12 years.

A valiant few startup enthusiasts have given it a good try with programs like 10x, but without sustained success.  There are two issues I see with Accelerators and their ability to sustain: defining success and defining a unique value proposition.  The obvious measure of success for an accelerator is to have a company come through, raise money, unicorn up and live happily ever after.  That measure of success has such a low probability that it is a foolish measurement on its own.  The word in the title ‘accelerator’ implies that there is something that will be sped up or shortened through participation.  I’ve never felt it was clear what was being accelerated.  Is it funding?  Failure? Traction?

Beyond the definition of success, I also struggle to see a majority of the accelerators deliver on a clear value offering.  The Brandery had a clear offering in its specific theme around building ‘brand’.  That is and was a unique offering from the start.

YC is elite.  TechStars has focused on retail-specific companies and some other themes.  Themes help narrow the net casting. But I think Fintech71 has the magic sauce.

Here’s a few reasons why we should get excited about Fintech71.

  1. It has a clear theme.
  2. It’s (mostly) privately backed by companies that have a real dog in the fight.
  3. Their value prop is that they can accelerate relationships. “Our mission at Fintech71 is to attract the most-innovative fintech startups and connect them with the top financial services companies in the world.”  My interpretation of this is that Fintech will vet and provide a sandbox for these companies to test relationships.
  4. The program is recruiting the right companies, not just a specific stage or location.

The definition of success piece is still going to be tough.  Accelerator programs are a short 10 week period and it is not clear to me when the clock starts ticking to see if and how it will be successful.  We’re going to track the companies through their progression in the program and report back to you what we hear and see…. but from the starting line, it looks like they might have a winning formula.

Photo Credit Fintech71

Daniel White’s latest title has you at hello.

As I scrolled through my LinkedIn today, I saw a post getting tons of engagement. It was titled: “Amazon Chooses Columbus Ohio for Next Headquarters?!*”

You can see the full post here.

If you don’t care to perpetuate the clicks, the jist of the post is making the case for Columbus vs. Seattle, the current Amazon HQ.  It’s ultimately about how great it would be for Amazon to come here and all the reasons that central Ohio is such a great place to live. What you won’t learn from this article:  where the next Amazon HQ will be.

To be fair, White does put this disclaimer at the end of the article:

*Article is meant as a serious discussion, but this has not actually happened yet. I am really just hopeful that Amazon picks Columbus. No actual announcements have been made and I am sure plenty of people will comment that their city is better. I look forward to that discussion. Also, if you read this far, congrats 🙂

Our heads would be exploding if Amazon announced its headquarters in Columbus.

I can’t decide if I think this is funny or marketing brilliance or both…  For Amazon I am guessing it’s a good sign that we’re willing to set aside our big corporate hatred for them in the hopes that they would choose us to be their life partner.

We reached out to White to see what his angle was… basically, he just loves this town.

My aim was not to “bamboozle” anyone. My first thought when I heard that Amazon was going to accept bids for a new HQ2 was to highlight why Columbus would be an awesome choice. I could have written 10,000 words on the benefits of Central Ohio. […] I love this city.

This is another case of Columbus pride run amok. White said he’s learning at least one lesson from the viral success of this post: “This Amazon article did offer me a window into the world of how much people actually read before they share. The answer: not much.”

High five Daniel White. You are today’s Clickmaster General.

It’s a good thing local television doesn’t hit the 18-45 year old demographic because the Issue 2 ads certainly wouldn’t be effective on that demo.  Are they effective for the 46+ demo watching television?  I doubt it.  In fact, it was reported by an Aug. 9 Cleveland.com article that only 6% of the respondents said they ‘understood it very well’.   

This kind of advertising offends me. 

I think this type of legislation advertising is specifically designed with the belief that voters don’t care, are lazy, or are stupid.  One thing everyone knows is that both sides specifically don’t want you to know who is really going to benefit with wins or losses (i.e. the special interest groups or big pharma).  

Our country has gone out of its way to regulate the type of advertising allowed in many industries.  For example, we regulate cigarette advertisements because we know the consequences of smoking can be detrimental to health. So we believe that consumers should be made aware of those consequences at the same time that they are being marketed those products.  Legislative advertisers have to follow the general disclaimer rules for political advertising– meaning that they have to tell you who paid for the ad and its messaging. But why haven’t we forced legislative issues and politicians to follow the same types of rules?

I understand that the c-list acting industry would suffer, but I think the economy would survive.  The argument from advertisers would probably be something like “people will tune out boring PSA-style information unless we tug on their heart strings or scare them”.  I’d like to see Ohio be the first state to put serious regulation on legislative advertising.  Imagine if political ads had to include the same kinds of disclaimers that drug companies and car dealers do now?  

“Voting yes may cause unintended side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, bleeding, early death, rising copays, bankruptcy, income equality…”

We tried our best to dissect this issue for voters. Check out this quick video and this deeper dive into the particulars of both sides, including interviews with supporters and opponents.

http://1812columbus.com/what-is-issue-2-and-who-cares/

Image: copyright Paramount Pictures, Black Sheep (1996) .

I am going to save you the disappointment and multi-year waiting period of angst and false hope. The hyperloop from Pittsburgh to Chicago isn’t going to happen.

I wish it was, but it’s not going to.

Here in the ‘mid east’ rust belt we like to remind ourselves of the  good old days of the auto industry.  We spent so many years protecting it by building roads, bridges, parking lots and other infrastructure that is pretty inefficient.

Trains? Nope. Hyperloops? Sounds too fast for us.  Maybe I’m wrong, hopefully I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

When I look at the list of proposed hyperloop locations (below), what I see is a bunch of much more highly-populated places that will take precedent.  Maybe I’m cynical, but it also looks like there is a strategic coverage of  places around the world to create buzz.  

  • US Dallas-Laredo-Houston (Texas)
  • US Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo (Colorado)
  • US Miami-Orlando (Florida)
  • India Bengaluru-Chennai
  • India Mumbai-Chennai
  • UK Edinburgh-London
  • UK Glasgow-Liverpool
  • Mexico Mexico City-Guadalajara
  • Canada Toronto-Montreal

I hope this serves as a reverse jinx and we end up with the hyperloop.  If not, we’ll keep hoping for some more transportation dreams.

 

MORPC plans are here for reference.

Photo Credit to Front Office News

It’s about that time in Columbus Marathon training… time to  face the dreaded long runs.  Killing those few hours and maintaining your sanity can be a real bitch if you don’t have good distractions.  These are a few of my favorite podcasts to help pass the time and keep me inspired through my long runs.

How I Built This

  • Time killed: 30 min – 1 hr episodes

The tagline is accurate – How I Built This is a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of the world’s best known companies and brands.
A few favorite episodes:

  • Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams Brewery
  • Jenn Hyman, founder of Rent The Runway
  • Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

This American Life 

  • Time killed: 1 hr episodes

Probably stating the obvious here if you are into podcasts, but I suggest digging into the wayback archives if you haven’t.  There’s a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. Most of the stories are journalism, with an occasional comedy routine or essay.

Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell

  • Time killed: 1 hr episodes

Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.  Not only will you enjoy it, but you might do some revisionist thinking about  why you are running so far!

Freakonomics

  • Time killed: 30 min – 1 hr episodes.

If you liked the books (Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics) you’ll like this podcast.  I’m always challenged and reminded how much we don’t really know.  Great way to pull some facts back into conversation with your  family and friends when you get back from your run all smelly.

Radiolab

  • Time killed: 30 min – 1 hr episodes

Radiolab is a true potpourri of content.  It’s a little quirky. My opinion of each episode varies widely. But overall cool.   They describe Radiolab as a “show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”

Chime in with your favorites and I’ll add them to the list.  Happy running!

Photo: Ben Stiller in Starsky and Hutch courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

It was a sunny morning in Indianapolis during my senior year in college.  A classmate in Italian class piped up in English, which wasn’t allowed, and said that a plane had crashed into one of the towers.  This is pre social media, so there wasn’t a scurrying to open phones or computers.  With a general ‘whoa,  that’s nuts’ vibe we continued class.  Less than 30 minutes later the same classmate again piped up and mentioned that another plane had crashed into the other tower.  We all knew that was too much of a coincidence to be an accident.  The teacher told us to pack up and head out.

I remember going back to my house, but not with any particular crazy speed, worry or urgency.  Once I returned and saw the TV coverage it sunk in more that an unbelievable tragedy was unfolding and the world wasn’t going to be the same.  I was fortunate that a few family and friends who were regularly in the towers and NYC were not there at the time.  I just could never imagine the feelings and trauma of those who had friends and family affected or were  just in close proximity to the crash sites.

The rest of that day in Indianapolis was a surreal, sunny day.   By all accounts it was a normal day other than the events unfolding hundreds of miles away.  I’ve always felt a weird distance to the tragedy.  On the one hand, as an American, I with most, I carry a heavy heart on the day of remembrance and have deep pride in our responders and the sacrifices made by so many.  On another hand, I feel some type of guilt about not feeling deeply connected to September 11.  It almost feels like being a part of a movement you don’t really belong to.

We pay witness through the media and first hand accounts to tragedies all the time.  Clearly we can’t bare the emotional struggle of each situation, but as humans we desire some type of empathetic connection.  Physical, emotional or even monetary help isn’t always possible, so how do we connect?

For me, I use this day to remember and to take  an inward look. To try and find some of those characteristics I so admire about the survivors and heroes of  September 11 and take stock on how my life can pay homage to them.  Each year, I ask myself… can I say with confidence that I am honoring the past by trying to embody the sacrifices of those who came before?

Today everyone remembers where they were on that morning.  And we hope for collective healing and happiness for the future, no matter how far away.

 

Photo by Jonathan Simcoe on Unsplash

Kevin Pohmer is the former CEO and Chairman of Financial Guard, one of the leading fintech companies in America and pioneers of the Roboadvisor industry, which transformed how individuals receive and transact investment advice. Kevin successfully led the team that built, brought to market, and scaled Financial Guard’s technology and completed the successful sale of the company to Legg Mason (NYSE: LM) in August, 2016. During Kevin’s tenure, Financial Guard was selected as Best of the Online Investment Advisors in America by Kiplinger magazine and written about in Barrons, Forbes, NY Times, WSJ, Finovate, CUTimes, CUToday, Employee Benefit News and many other media outlets since its launch in 2013. Today, Kevin continues to be engaged in the fintech community as an investor, advisor, and entrepreneur. He currently sits on the Board and is the acting COO for IXN, the leading mobile solution for term life insurance in the growing insurtech segment, as well as one of the founding members of Fintech71 which is a public/private initiative within the State of Ohio focused on creating a fintech innovation hub and accelerator here in Columbus.

Prior to joining Financial Guard, Kevin was an Executive at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank where he enjoyed a 13 year career and played an integral role in growing J.P. Morgan Worldwide Securities Service’s business in the Americas. Kevin spent the majority of his career within the Institutional Sales group leading deal teams to bring the firm’s asset servicing, capital markets, and treasury related solutions to some of the most sophisticated public and private pensions in the world.

In addition to his corporate career Kevin enjoys giving back to his community. He is an active guest speaker within Ohio State’s business school, a corporate “Champion” of Junior Achievement, a Member of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Council and Marketing Council and a youth coach for girl’s soccer and lacrosse.

Kevin has a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Law from Binghamton University and a Masters in Business Administration from The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

Kevin is married with four beautiful daughters and enjoys staying active by playing basketball and other competitive sports.

Check out Startup Grind Columbus for information on future events!