8 January

Growing Detroit in 2013

Growing Detroit: On Moving Ahead in 2013

We are now officially one week into 2013, and want to kick things off in a way that is most productive for the community going forward. To do this, however, we need your help…

For Grow Detroit, we are planning on continuing the events well into 2013, but nothing has been set in stone. When Grow Detroit events resume this year, we wish to revise the setup of the events. We are debating among ourselves how we can improve the events, and would appreciate any feedback or suggestions you may have. What would you like to see at future Grow Detroit events? What did you like or not like about the events you have attended? Where would you like to see us host a future event? We are interested in hearing your suggestions as to how this can be accomplished, whether or not the vehicle resembles the current ‘panel + drinks’ format of Grow Detroit.

Above all, our mission is to promote ideation and innovation by bringing together the diverse spheres that form the entrepreneurial community in Southeast Michigan.


Question: How would I envision success for Detroit?

Over the Holidays, I was quoted in a nice piece for the Huffington Post.  Unfortunately, they were unable to run the full quote, but I’d like the opportunity to share it now as it well sums up my thoughts over the past weeks, and gives a shout out to some great folks who are doing amazing things in our community everyday…

I want Detroit to be recognized as a hotbed of innovation, of course. The national media is beginning to recognize that something special is taking place here, thanks largely to the vision of individuals like Dan Gilbert and Brian Hermelin. Now, the time has come for other leaders in the region to follow their example and go ‘all-in’.

Our community organization, Grow Detroit, works on a grassroots level by highlighting the companies and people to watch in Detroit’s emergent startup scene. What I’ve witnessed over the past year is inspiring…highly innovative startups like Ambassador and Lovebook Online have made the commitment to build their businesses here, and will quickly become the region’s success stories; inspiring a future generation of Entrepreneurs to grow their companies ‘in the D’.

Established companies like ViSalus and Billhighway have chosen to make sizable investments in the area, showing a commitment to staying in the region. Both are highly supportive of the local startup community, and I hope others follow their lead.

It is SO exciting to see our city’s engineering talent put to good use in new and exciting ways. Techshop in Dearborn, and makerspaces like i3 Detroit create an exciting dynamic in Detroit specifically, as they bridge traditional manufacturing with a high-tech touch — the intersection of hardware and software. A prime example of Next-Gen technologies can be seen at the Detroit Aircraft Corporation — a company worth taking note of.

We need to address the problem of the sheer geographic size of Detroit. Boston, Manhattan, and SF can all fit inside the boundary lines of Detroit. Jordan Skole, a local Social Entrepreneur brought this to my attention recently, and it’s a staggering statistic when you look at a map and recognize this fact. That’s why I’m intrigued by the Detroit groups that are trying to convert vacant land to green-space, It creates a tremendous opportunity for someone who has the vision and means to execute.

31 December

7 Resources to Learn How To Program in 2013

We hear it all the time in the group Hackers & Hustlers – “I need a programmer.” Well quit trying to buy one and make it a goal to teach yourself how to program in 2013.

I am by no means an expert developer, but I have no problem writing my own WordPress themes, developing simple web applications to replace spreadsheets at work, A/B testing splash pages for 1-page websites, and many more freeing skills that learning how not to be intimidated by code can provide. This post wont be a replacement for Nathan Bashaw & Bryce Colquitt’s upcoming project enoughtobedanger.us, but hopefully it will provide you with some great resources to get started before the book (?!?!) comes out.

EDIT: Since writing this article, Nathan’s project has pivoted into a much larger project called Dash, which was rolled into the General Assembly suite of products. I highly recommend checking it out.

When people ask me how I started I almost always point them to the following page first. You end up with a pretty hideous little page, but you have to crawl before you walk, and the whole tutorial should take you about 2-3 hours at the most. It will get you started learning HTML and CSS, the two most fundamental elements of the web.


EDIT: setting up a local server isn’t difficult, but its not as easy as working directly in your browser and seeing your changes made live. I recommend using enoughtobedanger.us’ scratchpad.io to practice your skills.

Next I like to provide people with a list of video hosting & e-learning websites. Almost all of them offer at least a partial selection of content for free, and that is where I would recommend getting started. Try and stick to HTML/CSS and the free content. By sticking with the free content it will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed – there is a LOT to learn if you try to learn it all. I would just recommend prioritizing learning enough at first. I have actually used all of these at one point so feel free to ask me any questions you might have.

Personally (I’m a visual/spatial learner) I recommend the order of operations be:

  1. HTML
  2. CSS
  3. JavaScript/jQuery
  4. a ‘server side’ programming language (there are many options)

teamtreehouse.com – $25 (silver), $49 (gold), $9 (student – gold) – beginner – yes badges

Treehouse isn’t free but it is probably my favorite place to get started, and they do offer a lot of their basic courses without needing a membership although you wont be able to save your badges. I think they do an exceptional job of breaking learning modules down into manageable chunks, and sectioning off content based on your personal learning goals. I also enjoy having tests and being able to earn badges. They have come a long way since I started learning with them which is great as well, and they will let you pause your membership – so you can learn a core set of skills, and then practice them before you resume paying learning.

codeschool.com – $25/seat – intermediate – yes badges

codeschool is innovative in that it isn’t just watching screencasts and then taking tests – you actually complete course lessons inside your browser. Codeschool offers several free courses, which are a great place to get started, and also lets you earn badges which are helpful for tracking your progress. I think their lessons tend more toward intermediate, so I would recommend creating an account once you feel comfortable with HTML/CSS and are ready to move on to jQuery (jQuery is just JavaScript). Personally I would recommend getting started with jQuery before learning JavaScript, but your goal should be to be comfortable with both.

Lynda.com – $25/month, Free for CSS students – Beginner – Intermediate – no badges

Lynda.com is the old-school option out there, but what’s true about old school options is that they have been around the longest, and so must be doing something correct. I think I have probably watched the more lynda videos than from any other resource out there, and lynda covers all sorts of topics, not just programming/development. Lynda has some great lessons, and they provide downloadable training files for certain memberships, but you don’t need those if you build along with the screencast. The downside is they tend to suck you into a spiral of different technologies to learn, and don’t necessary help you learn ‘in order’

codeacademy.com – Free!!!(?) – Beginner – No Badges (?)

Code Academy is another one of those great resources for learning right in your browser. They do a great job of introducing the concepts and getting you started. I haven’t taken their HTML & CSS course, but I went through most of their JavaScript course a while back and it was excellent. I would definitely jump over here as soon as you feel comfortable building static webpages.

tutsplus.com – $19 premium/free blog – Intermediate – No Badges

tutsplus, or the tutsplus network is really a plethora of tutorial networks spanning most of the adobe creative suite, to development, and more. It is more of a magazine style layout, so you will really need to search for what you want to learn if you are there for something specific. It generally covers more ‘staying fresh’ content and a lot of different frameworks. I’ve noticed that I tend to gravitate towards certain authors I like, then follow them on twitter, and track down their personal blogs/youtubes.

Free Google python class – Free!!! – Intermediate – No Badges

Google loves python, and for good reason, it’s actually the first actual programming language I learned and is powerful, easy to learn, and will help develop good habits for writing syntax.  This is actually the course that google teaches to its non-engineering employees, so it is a good resource. I haven’t looked at it in over a year, so I am not sure if it has changed much but I can’t imagine it getting worse. I only called it intermediate because last time I looked into it the lessons weren’t super intuitive.

khanacademy.org – Free!!! – Beginner – Badges?

I actually haven’t taken any of these courses, but I absolutely love the khanacademy, and what it is doing in the education vertical. This is one course that isn’t actually taught by Salman himself so it might not be as good, but they wouldn’t put junk on their site.

Do you know of any more good resources? Coupon Codes? Send us a tweet or let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the article!


10 December

Frank Nelson Cole’s Three Years of Sundays

Frank Nelson Cole Photograph

A Photograph of Frank Nelson Cole

I read this book a couple years ago, a great read, I would suggest anybody that happily considers themselves a geek, a nerd, or similar, to pick up a copy. It was called “The Man Who Loved Only Numbers” and is more-or-less a biography about Paul Erdős. Recently I was listening to This American Life and my main man Ira opened one the show with a short anecdote  from the book about a mathematician named Frank Nelson Cole.

From ‘Frank Nelson Cole‘ on Wikipedia:

In 1903 Frank Nelson Cole famously made a presentation to a meeting of the American Mathematical Society where he identified the factors of the Mersenne number 267-1, or M67Édouard Lucas had demonstrated in 1876 that M67 must have factors (i.e., is not prime), however he was unable to determine what those factors were. During Cole’s so-called “lecture”, he approached the chalkboard and in complete silence proceeded to calculate the value of M67, with the result being 147,573,952,589,676,412,927. Cole then moved to the other side of the board and wrote 193,707,721 × 761,838,257,287, and worked through the tedious calculations by hand. Upon completing the multiplication and demonstrating that the result equaled M67, Cole returned to his seat, not having uttered a word during the hour-long presentation. His audience greeted the presentation with a standing ovation. Cole later admitted that finding the factors had taken “three years of Sundays”.

Three  tedious, mind numbing, hopeless, years of Sundays.

Homie sat there every. single. Sunday. methodically dividing 267-1 by hand. There was no end in sight! Cole’s homie Edouard had demonstrated that somewhere in all of those 147,573,952,589,676,412,927 numbers there was a solution, but that’s a pretty darn big haystack to sieve through for a needle that might not even exist.

This really hit the right note on my harp, because like I have previously stated about entrepreneurship – This s@#$ is hard. It’s not about that brilliant idea, this incredible life we have committed to is not made up of one  life changing epiphany, its made up of many tiny tedious attempts, and a belief in a greater purpose for ourselves.

The interesting thing about Frank Nelson Cole is that “The Man Who Loved Only Numbers” wasn’t even written about him, he just got a short story, an anecdote! But what’s interesting is that from my understanding a standing ovation at an American Mathematical Society conference is unprecedented, it just doesn’t happen.

Most of us in the end we wont end up with 267-1 dollars, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the chance that we will end up with a standing ovation, and for me that’s more than enough.

17 September

Monday Motivation: Finding Time to Think Strategically

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair discusses the advice he received from Bill Clinton about the need to schedule time to think strategically. He spoke at the Stanford Graduate School of Business with Stanford GSB Dean Garth Saloner.