Event recap Archive

Patent Trolls, Got an App for That?

Patent Trolls, Got an App for That?

9e35a89addd611e28deb22000ae911d0_7Of all the ways to judge the effectiveness of an event here at CoCo, my favorite is what I call The Sam Rating.

The Sam Rating was inspired by CoCo member Sam RaicheSam is one of the most curious and approachable CoConuts I’ve met. It’s hard not to like the guy. It’s even more difficult to get Sam to quit working and go home. When the bell hits five o’clock, you’re more likely to find Sam furiously sketching away at a white board than packing up to go home. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I really respect his enthusiasm and work ethic. However, as an event staffer, Sam’s work ethic also makes me late for dinner dates and Friday night movies! But I digress, this post isn’t actually about Sam Raiche. It’s about the recent App Developers Summit here at CoCo MPLS. So, let me get to the point…

The Sam Rating is simple: the more difficult it is to get people to leave after an event, the higher the rating. The more engagement, idea-sharing and post event chit-chat going down, the higher the chances are that I’ll find Sam in the crowd—and that I’ll be postponing tonight’s viewing of Game of Thrones!

On a scale of 1-10, I would say the recent App Developers Summit earned a Sam Rating of at least 8.5.

Legal fears and frustration brought the group together. Sharing stories and resources kept them late into the evening. It turns out that for every slick new Web app that hits the market, there are a handful collecting digital dust on the shelf thanks to the quagmire of legal barriers otherwise known as patent law. 

The Application Developers Alliance is out to change that. The group hosts Patent Summits around the country, bringing together developers, policymakers and patent experts together to discuss practical topics, like assertion and defense strategies for startups, as well as policy reform. 

refreshments fuel collaboration at Coco Mpls

Each event features a patent expert, followed by a panel discussion between policymakers, app developers, and attorneys, an open Q&A, and plenty of beverages to fuel the reception afterward (but more on that later).

This event was sponsored locally by Fantastic iP Consulting, CoCo and MOJO MinnesotaErnest Grumbles of Adams Monohan, LLP and Co-founder of MOJO Minnesota kicked things off with a quick overview of the current legal challenges facing app developers.

I noticed an unusual amount of head-nodding and MMMM-HMMMM’s during the opening session, which I later understood as the group’s shared frustration with a legal system that simply isn’t keeping up with the rate of change and innovation in their industry.

For example, panalist Michael Cohen of Gray Plant Mooty Law told a story of spending millions defending a totally bogus claim by a patent troll. (What would a troll even do with a mil anyway?!) My take-away: When it comes to defending a patent in court, even when you win you lose. For most of these cases, all that “winning” means is that you regain the right to get back to work, only now with a few thousand—or million—missing from your budget. 

My other take-away: Some app developers really need a drink! The requisite legal jockeying  in the app development world may be bad for innovation in America—but it seems even more soul-sucking for the individuals trying to share their passion and ideas. Many of the folks in the room seemed guarded and tense when they arrived (after a few stories like Michael’s, I definitely understood why!).  I don’t know if it was the booze or simply the opportunity to connect with others navigating the same troll-infested waters, but closing remarks were punctuated with a palpable sense of camaraderie, perhaps even a twinge of relief that the trolls won’t get the last word. 

Speaking of the last word, when I left the building the conversations had migrated to the elevator lobby—and yes, Sam was still there. 

By John Pederson


Nuit Blanche at CoCo STP

Nuit Blanche at CoCo STP

On Saturday, June 8th, St. Paul’s Lowertown district was transformed by Northern Spark, a dusk ’til dawn festival that showcased art, music, and everything else in between. CoCo member Chuck Olsen of VidTiger worked alongside Chris Strouth and James Gladman to project a screening of “Suddenly Petunia Pig wasn’t a thing” from CoCo’s 4th Floor windows. It was an awesome sight to see Lowertown come alive near the newly reconstructed Union Depot station and to see the Bedlam Theater (our neighbors on the 1st floor) filled with patrons. This event is a don’t miss for next year!

Photos: Teresa Boardman




Entrepreneurs-in-training Stepping up at CoCo

Entrepreneurs-in-training Stepping up at CoCo

We’re enjoying a boost of youthful entrepreneurial energy at CoCo this week thanks to students from AchieveMpls and the Google for Entrepreneurs (GFE) team, including special guest Evan Rowe (a STEP-UP graduate).

75 high school students from the STEP-UP Program packed the coworking deck Saturday to use technology to solve real world problems.

A beautiful breakfast spread from Chowgirls catering greeted the students, while the GFE team kicked things off with a game of “human bingo.” But the games didn’t last long. Participants broke into groups to pick an issue to tackle in the afternoon break-out session. Challenges du jour: obesity, gang violence and bullying. Group members sparred with personal stories and observations from their neighborhoods before casting votes.

The GFE team shared insights from their driverless car and glasses to kick-start a conversation about innovation before leading a panel of local business leaders for a Q&A lighting round.

The breakout strategy sessions were just as lively. CoCo members donated their time and expertise facilitating small groups competing in a battle royale for the entrepreneurs-in-training title belt.

“The quiet students had some of the best ideas,” one member volunteer told me. “Holding space at the table for everyone was a big challenge.” Meanwhile the students seemed right at home in front of a whiteboard or on stage presenting their strategies to the panel of judges.

You never know if it’s your turn to learn or lead around here. These students reminded us to do both at the same time!
- John Pederson





More event photos

+1 for #GFEMpls

+1 for #GFEMpls

How do you do justice an event that drew more than 300 people and featured a U.S. senator, our mayor, and a dozen rock stars from the most successful tech startup in recent history?

Perhaps with some gratitude, because that’s what we’re feeling. We owe a debt of thanks to a lot of people, but let’s start with our members, who turned up in such great numbers. Campsite members were particularly gracious for letting us take over the space for the day. And of course Senator Amy Klobuchar and +Mayor R.T. Rybak for giving our community such a high-profile boost. Also, thanks to w3i and MHTA for making their spaces available as backup coworking sites. And to the media folks who felt this was a worthwhile story to cover. And to the amazing Pablo Jones, event planner extraordinaire. And to the awesome Chow Girls Catering. Finally, huge thanks to our visiting Googlers:

The Google/CoCo partnership (PDF) is significant for its symbolic value. Think about it: Google noticed that there’s something happening in Minnesota and decided to make an investment! (Ahem, MN companies please take note.) But what will really matter over the next two years is how this partnership affects the community – and whether we can use this program to help more people be successful as tech entrepreneurs. Our goal is to create more occasions for people to trade ideas, make critical connections, find vital resources and make deals. We have some ideas, but realize that the best ideas are going to come from you. So, do you have ideas for the kinds of classes, workshops, socials, conferences, Hangouts, hook-ups that should be included in the program? Please share with us!

Update 2/24: See some of the ideas we’ve already received!

We won’t attempt to rehash the content all the great marketing, strategy and talks. (We hope to post many of the slide decks early next week). Instead, what follows is a visual recap from an attendee point of view. Enjoy!

Waiting to get badged. Sorry about the logjam! (by Paul DeBettignies)

Welcome to #GFEMpls! (by John Pederson)

Mary Grove, Director of Global Entrepreneurship Outreach at Google, kicks off the day's activities. (by Josh Becerra)

Senator Amy Klobuchar is briefed before speaking. (by David Hewitt)

A well-packed room! (by Nick Wolterman, Pioneer Press)

The view from above. (by John Pederson)

Backed by Kyle Coolbroth, Mary Grove, Senator Klobuchar and Mayor Rybak, Don Ball describes the coming Google for Entrepreneurs program at CoCo. (by Laura Andersen)

Mayor R.T. Rybak makes the case for the Minneapolis startup scene. (by Mark Brown)

Steve Grove tells the Google+ story. (by David Skarjune)

Kaili Holtermann shares online marketing ideas. (by Graeme Thickins of Minnov8)

Let the Nerf wars begin. (by Don Ball)

Good friends meet at the coffee station. (by Paul Debettignies)

Pix from the Cocktails & Conversations event

Pix from the Cocktails & Conversations event

Update: This event was well attended and was by all accounts a great success. Thanks to everyone who came. Thanks to those of you who gave us constructive feedback. We definitely hope to put on an even better event in the future!

See candid photos from the event.

Browse some of the participants’ quotes and ideas that were captured at the event.

A meetup just for women entrepreneurs

Wednesday, October 19, 6 to 9 p.m.

Image courtesy of TechCocktail.com

Are you on the list? The list of women entrepreneurs in Minnesota, that is. This meetup is for everyone on that list, whether your business is high-tech or high-touch.

We have only one item on the agenda: to give you a chance to meet other entrepreneurs and have the conversations you want to have.

So, meet us at CoCo Minneapolis, a place entrepreneurs create the future every day…

  • There will be cocktails! (It’ll be a cash bar, unless we can get a drink sponsor!)
  • Snacks will be provided by Chow Girls catering.
  • Liz Tupper, co-founder and COO of SieEnt, will help us inaugurate a new conversational format called “Ten Tables.”

Image courtesy of TechCocktail.com

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