Capitol Code Idea #6 from TECHdotMN on Vimeo.
This past weekend I participated in the Capitol Code Open Data Jam event sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of State. This event was designed to bring entrepreneurs, software developers, and innovators together to develop solutions for problems faced by our community using data collected by the state. The data made available were precinct data, voter information, business filing data, and census data.
I came to the event without a solid idea to work on but thought that I would join a team to work on something valuable to the community. Then I thought it made sense that I should pitch something to make sure that I get to compete for the prizes offered at the event. I was interested in doing something with economic development related to the African American community so I put together an idea of building a resource to help attract and retain people of color to the state.
After pitching my idea I noticed that there was very little interest displayed by the attendees in working with me on my idea. I figured that may happen and wasn’t surprised at the lack of enthusiasm for my concept. However a few ladies came to me interested in helping me refine and define my concept. We started with the issues we were trying to addressed and used the data from the state to help paint the picture of the state future population by race. We figured with the help from the state demographer’s office that minorities will be in a larger proportion of the states population and when people begin to retire the jobs they vacate will have a high probability of being filled by minorities.
We used my favorite tool to attack the problem: the business model canvas. As we worked through the idea and used this framework, we realized that the value proposition for the state, the businesses that would benefit, and the people we were trying to serve could actually be something attractive to pursue.
One of the ladies mocked up a site and we began to pull together resources that would be available in a easy to use format for consumption by our target audience. We added a mock video to the site to show a mentoring function that could be added to encourage people of color to come here and get the support they need to succeed.
At the end of the day everyone that pitched an idea got the opportunity to present their idea to the group and a panel of judges. I called the idea POC.MN for a lot of reasons. POC meant People of Color, Proof of Concept, Point of Connection, and Place of Community. All those terms define what we are trying to build to help promote the state and enhance the economic development with contributions from people of color.
After presenting the idea and taking some questions from the judges I was pretty much done with the event and was really happy with what I had accomplished that day. I didn’t think that my idea and presentation was good enough for any of the prize since everyone else had worked on projects that took the open data and mapped it, used social media to show connections to state officials, or presented the data api information in mobile app format. However, to my surprise, the judges awarded me the Most Entrepreneurial Idea award.
One of the judges said that while my idea, presentation, and mock website didn’t show a complex use of the data, my idea was the most entrepreneurial because my idea was designed to address the challenge the state has attracting and retaining people of color who could bring new tax income, could start new businesses, and push the state economy forward. The prize I got for my idea is to meet the Joel Cannon, CEO of tenKsolar, a energy company. I’m looking forward to meeting him and asking about how he got to where he is now.
Getting the award was satisfying in many ways. First, I alway challenge myself to take on new things to help with my personal growth. Second, I figure if my idea was worth an award it might be something worth pursuing. Third, at the end of the day everyone has to be able to sell. I was able to take a concept I hadn’t completely figured out and communicate enough value in it that I was able to get people to help me. And lastly, I was reminded that you just have to do something with what you have because resources and help will come your way once you start going down the path.