Writer’s Note: sorry for the format. New Text Editor not working properly.
This is a special post because it was an exciting day a few weeks ago. I went to an all day forum at the University of Denver on Entrepreneurship After the Age 55. It was put on by the Center For Productive Longevity, headquartered where else but Boulder,CO. This entourage was headed by Bill Zinke, an 85 year young ball of fire and former Wall Street lawyer who formed this non profit several years ago.
At first I thought the rather odd name of a group that was perchance pushing cryogenics or hemlock as an alternative. Not so, mes amis. This gang of 6 or 7 were all stars and had played at BabsonCollege, the Kellogg School of Business, onto LA and then had Denver as its last stop. Here there were 150 attendees with another fifty on the waiting list!
The gist was twofold. It seems many of the older generation are not exactly content to sit around and watch soaps or replay their golf rounds several times over. These people were psyched and it was beyond infectious. They had ideas and dreams. Making money was fine but it was not the end all and be all. They were following aspirations they had held for a long time. They weren’t trying to improve the entire world. Just small parts of it.
The second goal was JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. They weren’t running for office and they sure as hell didn’t need another agency formed. It seems that more startups are accomplished by the silver hairs than any other portion of demographic map.
Allen Hall sat next to me at the continental breakfast. He was well dressed and seemed to be futzing with his IPhone as Bill introduced the team. He was going over a document which turned out to be the bullet points for his talk. He was amazing not so much for his powerful delivery but more for his passion for being in business.
He had failed five times in a row and was down to last straw while pursuing his sixth dark alley. His supportive wife said “OK this is it honey. Now or never.” I, of course have never heard that before. Well you can figure out the script. He now owns or is a major part of over 40 companies. He was even the president of a ballet company. If you saw him you knew pas de deux was not in the CV for this multi millionaire but business was.
Better yet he gives away $1 million a year. Not a grant. Not a stock option but monetary gifts to budding entrepreneurs of all ages and stripes. They of course have to make their pitch but he does it so that more Americans will be commercially viable and by nature hire more and more of their countrymen. This guy is good.
There is a group here in Denver of entrepreneurial doctors. They meet once a month and throw around ideas from everything to new types of procedures to truly groundbreaking instruments. The meetings are open to everyone and there are no secrets. It is headed by an ENT from the University of Colorado Med Center.
Well for me all this headiness was like giving guns to the indians. I went to a breakout session to plan out my next foray into business. The most difficult aspect? Describing your concept in two sentences.You know the elevator speech. I then got a chance to pitch my fledgling idea to the class. No, I am not going to tell you what it is but you can always guess. And they didn’t boo me.
I know it was basic stuff but the way people networked was incredible. People paired off into small groups at lunch. No less than three people came up to me to discuss my idea and provide many sources of information and contact. I am going to a follow up meeting this week.
I have been “pondering the imponderables” about my generation for awhile now. My thesis is: Boomers…Asset or Liability? This meeting tilted my bias towards potential rather than castigation. I spoke with a gent who was an aerospace engineer for Martin Marietta. I asked him why his profession, which will see a downturn as interplanetary travel is on somewhat of a back burner, couldn’t get involved in desalinization or exploration of the oceans? He said there was no reason at all. I’m loving these people.
Look, these meetings are not obvious but if you seek them out they are a wonderful outlet for ideas and even investment. I broached the whole concept with a great friend who is much younger. He is involved in a an organization of his peers. Not necessarily in the same business they were still part of higher management. They meet monthly and challenge each other. They voice problems and frustrations. But most importantly they discuss creativity and opportunity.
I had to share this with you. I had to try to convey in some small way the beauty of this place we call home. We have incredible opportunity whether you are a realtor or a rocket scientist. Don’t wait for government. Don’t wait for a handout. Most of all don’t sit on your ass and say “Sure Ted that’s admirable, but I am too busy.”Or worse yet,”I’ve done my share. Let someone else do it.”
Light you own fire or at least add logs to one that is underway. Think of all the executive talent that is lying fallow. You could help a city or school district with its finances. In our bandaid world we could really use some long range planning in states and municipalities. Just do it!
Listen, we all have to start acting like immigrants. We have to get back to building commerce and new ideas. We have to till the garden rather than just devouring the fruits. I would like to think we are an asset. How aboutyou?
Ted The Great…Old Fart Extraordinaire
–There are currently 600,000 applications for new patents in the hopper in DC. If only 10% were viable and each one resulted in 10 jobs that would do more for the economy than the current effort.
–We live in a fabulous city and state in Denver Co. We are at the heart of start up central. It’s not geography as much as a mind set. We just had a city backed week long program for startups that was beyond successful. It’s in there!
–Over 55 crowd accounts for some 20% of all business startups. There are over 5 million selfemployed over 55
TTG…We are twins separated at birth. Very scary for both Kathy and MB! Have been immersed to my eyeballs as Founder, Director and EVP these past 2 years in OvaGene Oncology (www.ovagene.com), a molecular diagnostics company focused exclusively on gynecologic cancers (ovarian, uterine and cervical)…a huge unmet need. Not sleeping much, golf game in the crapper, personality even worse than before, but stimulated beyond my dreams at this advanced age. Each payroll is a challenge with 11 employees now added to the workforce (not including the non-salaried Founders), but we now have 5 tests available for gyn-onc docs to use in helping them care for these wonderful ladies with horrific diseases. Better yet, we have a pipeline of 8 other really terrific tests in development. I loved GI and tried hard to do good for people in my other eclectic careers, but I am ever grateful for this late chance to leave a legacy where there is such a crying clinical need. Factoid: ~80,000 new gynecologic cancer patients yearly in US with high death rates, inadequate diagnostics and ineffective toxic treatments. I’ve become expert at knocking on doors, pitching vc’s, anything short of begging, but never have I done anything so fulfilling. One venture capitalist called us the “Little Engine That Could.”
Can you put me in touch with Allen Hall? I need to know that guy! And yes, we must get back to the immigrant mentality of building our future! Best wishes to Kathy and your extended Clan for a Wonderful Holiday Season… And keep a’writin!
FYI – I DID receive this direct from you earlier. It’s just not forwarding from your posting on 308.
SO glad you’re back, Ted. Always find your thoughts interesting, stimulating, and motivating! Happy Holidays to you and Kathy! Claudia Carroll