Orlando Rincón Bonilla – ParqueSoft – hero?

the man

As much as I preach empathy and sharing of yourself – I believe the more you share, the more opportunuitys you provide others to see themselves in you and thus say, “hey, if s/he can do it, so can I.” – I’ve never been able to say “that person is my hero.” So, I’m not saying this guy is my hero just yet because I’ve never met him, but based on who ever wrote this wikipedia article, Orlando Rincón is a helluva guy. I love his commitment to country, the power entrepreneurship, youth, and technology.

Here are some excerpts that really motivated me.

Orlando Rincón Bonilla is a firm believer in the creative capacity and commitment of his compatriots.

In 1984, he founded Open Systems Ltd, which became one of the leading examples of Colombia’s emerging Software industry. As head of the company, he accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge on running and managing a software company. But he was troubled by the tension between profit maximization and the importance of social development, which remained of paramount importance to him. He realized he had to foster entrepreneurs with a different mindset that would understand that markets could provide a way to achieve equity and justice, and decided to pursue that vision. Bonilla sold all of his stock in Open Systems and founded ParqueSoft in 1999 as a non-profit enterprise.

…he visited several Asian and European countries that were being touted as “economic miracles” thanks to their ability to create a niche in the Information Technology industry. He observed with disappointment that behind that miracle were managers—not self-starting entrepreneurs—who had been hired by global companies located in Los Angeles or London, justifying the low wages paid by reasoning that the workers were earning much more than they would if contracted by a local company. That was not good enough for Bonilla.

ParqueSoft is fundamentally focused on creating social value, not software companies. Its mission is to stimulate democracy and justice through the inclusion of previously marginalized young people living in low-income communities. ParqueSoft seeks to transform them into protagonists of their enterprises, not employees.

To foster an entrepreneurial culture, ParqueSoft has a programme whereby every two months it integrates 150 young people for 8 weeks into the different enterprises according to their interests. The youth participate in the activities of the enterprise and learn what it is like to be wrapped up in the world of technology and science from a venture perspective. The objective is to teach these young participants about technology and business, and help them to envisage themselves as agents of change rather than as future employees.

A while back I started putting together a list of billionaires that are worth something. I need to revisit that list.

Juan, thanks so much for your email about ParqueSoft. You rock dude; and you were right on that I would dig all this.

Meeting with great people in Austin

Almost everyone I met with today was somehow interested in the Semantic Web. What’s the deal? Is Austin really that much of a hot bed for this?

My first meeting was with Juan Sequeda. Juan is a Semantic Web Evangelist, Entrepreneur and Web Developer – he’s also working on his Ph.D at UT. He gave me the run down on how Parquesoft operates in Columbia. In Juan’s words here’s a run down of what they do, you’ll see how it’s applicable to Conjunctured/Startup District (I hope you don’t mind me posting this :):

The creator of parquesoft was a millionare software developer who decided to buy a huge warehouse and convert it into tons of small offices. Any student/ developer who had an idea, could apply for a space, and if the idea was unique enough, you would get a space, free internet and everything for just 25 dolars a month. The company was on its own, but if they needed help because of a huge contract and they needed lawyers or something, Parquesoft would help them [for a percentage of the take]. The deal is that this place has extended to several other cities in Colombia and is doing the same. Any entrepreneur who has an idea, can get a space and work. The idea of Parquesoft is also to do a social impact (Colombia is a developing country).

It just so happened that Cesar was meeting with Clay Spinuzzi in the same coffee shop – I love when that happens.

Next, thanks to Melissa‘s introduction, I met Timothy Maxwell. Tim is a Developer/Consultant at Optaros. He was especially interested in the kind of business model ideas we talked about originally for Conjunctured (ie the “Co-company” model) and what kind of software could be developed to facilitate such a structure. I’m going to connect Tim with John De Oliveira and ActionItem.com.

After this I had a great lunch at Chez Nous with Jonas Lamis (the food was good, but the conversation was better – I need to revisit Chez Nous and think about what I’m eating, not just talk). Jonas is into stuff I think is so cool. He’s the founder of SciVestor, a “research and advisory firm focused on coming waves of disruptive technologies. [They do] Research and events for business and investment communities covering Life Extension, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Nanotechnology marketplaces.”

It was great getting to know Jonas (it always weird writing about someone when you know they will probably read it soon). I’m looking forward to continuing our conversations. I want to ask more about AI, Singularity, etc. But I think there are a couple videos and blog posts I need to watch/read beforehand. We talked mostly about the Startup District and after lunch went and drove around the East Side to scope out warehouses.

Finally went to the Long Center and volunteered with the American Cancer Society – @daveiam, Tom, and I were there talking to people about SharingHope.tv – it’s a great social site for cancer survivors and others to share their stories. ACS and the HBMG Foundation are sponsoring the showing of The Love Sonatas there.

At the Long Center I ran into David Smith, CEO of HBMG and formally of Technology Futures Inc, and Lyn Graft who Founded the Club E Network – both guys I enjoy talking to.

Back at home I jogged to Marcus Ceniceros‘ place and had a long conversation about the University of Texas and it’s place in the State of Texas, how Austin politics work (i learned a ton), the Startup District, how to effectively rally people, and about managing relationships for the long term. Marcus will be teaching in Houston for 2years via Teach for America. Soon we will all be voting this guy into office. And even sooner he’ll be improving our educational policy.

More fun in Austin

Recap of a great Memorial Day weekend

  • Went on a 2 hour bike ride with Jon and Will – rode our bikes from the UT campus to the greenbelt at 360
  • Danced up a storm, jumped in Barton Springs at 4am-ish with @cesart, @jon100, @rockgirl, @gloriakt, @imdane SEE DANE’S FLICKR
  • Startup Drinks at Cork and Co was great – excellent conversation all around, most notably with @jdhouse4, Rajat, and @damon
  • Rode down 2222 from Mount Bonnell on bikes+flaming torches with Will Roman (the photos below i stole from Will’s flickr stream – thanks man)
  • Went cliff diving with a ton of Twitters SEE KRISTINE’S POST
  • Cliff Jumping, Austin from Kristine Gloria on Vimeo.

What if Austin had a Startup District? the story thus far

I’ve been trying to write different things to explain what this startup district idea is… Sooo im gonna tell the story of how this came about and let you decide what to make of it.

Startup Disrict is just an idea that started in a conversation between Dane Hurtubise and myself several weeks ago. We were basically saying how much we love austin and talking about startups / entrepreneurs here. The topic came to the fact we didn’t think all the startups really knew each other. From there Dane said it would be awesome if Austin just had a startup district. …I don’t know about you, but when I heard that idea I was like “holy shit. you’re right on…” As pure concept I’m sure you can agree its a really cool idea. Basically it’s: have a bunch of startups and entrepreneurs in one place… Just calling it a district sounds cool – I mean, we have the Warehouse District. What’s that good for? I don’t know but calling it a District makes it an attraction.

After talking to Dane about this forever, I went home and told cesar about it via chat and he immediately pinged the domain name. By some off chance or act of god, the domain was available and he grabbed it faster than you can say wiimote.

That week I talked about it with the other guys at Conjunctured and we quickly saw that this idea really fell in line with what we want for Conjunctured. And that is, a place where entrepreneurs / one-two man startups / indepentends can work together – you know, coworking. The other side to conjunctured is having a brand and bringing in work as that brand – the reason to do this is to provide well paying hourly work to people who are working on their own startup or project but still need to be making some cash (like JobStrap). The idea there is that Conj would handle client serivces, and makes sure there is work avaliable (need to blog more on this).

So yeah, we felt like getting Conjunctured Coworking set up was 1.0 of the startup district idea – ultimately all Startup District really means is bringing people closer together in the hopes that everyone involved (including those looking to get involved) will benefit. Whether it’s Conjunctured or not, it seems like there would need to be some sort of central hub or commons at the center of all this – a place for people to start.

Soon after this we all met Thomas Marriott from GameWager. He had just moved their company from Houston to Austin and was looking for something exactly like this. At Startup Drinks (btw there is one this Sun. 4/24) I told Thomas about the idea of having a Startup District flag and all the startups involved also flying flags into the streets… Thomas being a competitive gamer and an all around boisterous kinda guy loved the idea. He came up with some pretty fun plans to incorporate the flags concept, assuming all this works out.

A couple days later I was riding my bike home from Whole Foods and Mayor Will Wynn was walking home also… so I had a walk and talk conversation with him about the idea. Basically he said talk to Lee Leffingwell or someone with the Emereging Technology Fund and to the east side neighborhood planning committee.

The next step was putting something up on the domain. I found out about the DEMOcocktail party dayof. So before Colin Anawaty and I rolled out to the party, I put up a barebones black text site and fed in a startupdistrict twitter feed. Im glad I had something up because there ended up being a ton of people great people who were willing to listen to me talk about this Startup District idea im all jazzed up about. People I talked to there were Chris Shipley (thanks Carla), Co-Founder of Guidewire Group, the people who put on DEMO (she tweeted about it), John Hime (thanks Christine)(he said he really likes the idea), Andrew Busey (it was really brief, but I told him :), Gerald Zhou formerly of Austin Ventures now at Rackspace (should be talking more with Gerald soonish), Daniel Hope of TrackSuitCEO (he blogged about it here), Jonas Lamis of Scivestor, Aruni of BabbleSoft, Josh Dillworth of Porter Novelii (he blogged about it), and some others.

After the party Colin, who just moved back to town from LA and is the Creative Director for GaimTheory, said he would help out creating a real site for startupdistrict.com and built a sweet little one on drupal.

Colin had the good idea that all the people who really want this to happen should start meeting twice a month. So without much planning we sent an email to all the guys mentioned thus far. Cesart, Dane, Thomas, Dave, and I all ended up making it – Colin hosted, and even provided beer and cheese and fruit trays. The meetup was awesome and I hope Dane feels like a king every time someone says “Startup District,” because he’s the one who said it in the first place. w00t!

…and that’s all I got so far. I need to write another post that talks more about the website and talking to different audiences. .. off to wordpress fest..