“Where others see problems, I see opportunity.”

“Where others see problems, I see opportunity,” said LinkedIn co-founder, Allen Blue.  He said so in quiet conversation and later to a larger audience.  His statement is worth reflecting on.

Allen made his remark first in a conversation I struck up with him at a reception being hosted by the U.S. Ambassador in Amman, Jordan, and, later, during a presentation at MENA-ICT, a high tech conference for the Middle East and North Africa that we were both attending.

Allen was speaking in the context of a discussion we were having about worldwide youth unemployment.  He noted that from his vantage point within LinkedIn, he saw there are still many companies looking to attract young talent.  Not surprisingly, Allen saw LinkedIn as a platform that could play a larger role in matching the need for talent with the need for work.

He offered that he wanted to see LinkedIn attract more members from outside the traditional white-collar skills pool that currently gravitates to LinkedIn.  This would certainly be a disruptive change that could let LinkedIn become an even more central social platform for job hunting and talent recruiting. 

For example, within the construction industry within the United States, there is a dire shortage of skilled labor.  Proactively encouraging those with skills of all sorts, including skilled laborers, to create a LinkedIn profile could make progress in larger ways.

This vision may seem purely self-serving for a LinkedIn co-founder, but, having witnessed first-hand the sort of passion that accompanied his description of a next iteration of LinkedIn, I can assure you that Allen’s vision is one that is genuinely concerned about converting “problems” into opportunities in a global fashion.

We all need to do more of the sort of thinking that Allen is doing.  We need to consider more how to convert “problems” into opportunities.  This will require “disruptive” thinking.

Small Startups Can Be Big Stuff, Especially if Matched with Mentors

Another point Allen mentioned in his discussion of LinkedIn is the ready pool of “mentors” that the network has that could loan crucial guidance to young talent.

Startups don't need to be high tech and huge to be meaningful and important. A startup is important when it lets people follow their passion and make a living at it, while bringing a new product or service to others.  

While walking the conference hall at MENA-ICT, in Amman, I came across a table where a few people people were sharing candy they made, really good candy.  They were having fun doing it and making a wonderful product.  They were still trying to figure out how to expand their market beyond the one they had in Amman, which was already enjoying what they were making.

This candy-making startup shared some chili toffee they had made.  It was awesome.  So think about this.  A few people, who might otherwise be unemployed, get together with a modest amount of funding and create a business making really good candy, something new.  (I’m thinking of their line of a chili toffee they shared!)  

Now, you may already have had such candy, but I assure you, not this candy.  

This is what makes entrepreneurship so special:   it enables people to follow their passions, bringing something new or special to the marketplace - and creating new jobs in the process!  Experienced business leaders could help accelerate this startup and many, many others, as Allen suggested.

Big startups are everyone’s dream.  Small startups, however, can be even more important when they give even more people the opportunity to pursue their passions and make a living in the process.

Another young person there was trying to advance his startup idea of tapping into Gamification to improve workforce efficiencies.  The idea could improve the quality of care in the healthcare industry.  He thought himself limited by geography.  With the right mentorship, as Allen suggested, such boundaries wouldn't be boundaries at all.

Some takeaways:  

1.  We must all think more about how to convert to “problems” into opportunities.  

2.  Improving networking across skill sets would help match more talent to jobs, as Allen's future view of LinkedIn envisions.  

3.  Providing more mentorship would accelerate startup growth and success.  

4.  Even "small" startups have big potential for creating jobs and bringing new and better goods and services to market.

5.  A startup economy may just be one of the best ways of creating jobs and economic opportunity in world where unemployment is endemic.

In short, our future depends on more "disruptive" thinking.

Verizon Delivers Internet Speed

In case you missed it, a few months ago I was invited to become a sponsored member of Verizon "Life on FiOS" brand ambassador team: I try their products and services, share my thoughts with my online community, and receive some benefits in doing so.  Write what I write, nobody asks to see what I write before I write it.  Sounded like a win to me - and it has been.

I Need My Speed

Before I had the invitation from Verizon, I was using cable, though we had fiber optics in our neighborhood.  I had actually intended to make a switch because of a basic sense that the newer technology is faster and more reliable.  For me, not having made the switch earlier was simply one of those things of knowing I should upgrade to the newer technology, but, just not having it as a high priority item.  (I should have made it a higher priority.)

I work and play on the computer all the time.  Internet speed matters.  I'm not techie enough to give you an explanation of the various speeds and what they each mean.  I just know I need my speed when it comes to the internet because speed means productivity or the loss of it.

Verizon's Internet Speed Chart

Verizon has a chart that lays out what the various speed options are and what they mean.  I'll include a link to their site as well, but, please not that it is NOT affiliate link, meaning that I don't get any added compensation if you make a switch (though I think you'll thank me if you do!).

Verizon FiOS Internet Info.

Oh, and should you call or email, don't bother saying I sent you, because the best you'll likely get in response would be a, "Glen who?"

75/75 to 150/150

So, when I made the switch from Cable to Verizon, the speed I started with was 75/75.  It was a noticeable increase in speed and reliability from cable.  But, like I said earlier, I really want my speed and requested a change to the 150/150.  You can refer to the chart above for what it all means by way of actual speed, download times.

For me, the question is, "In my daily online activities do I find an increase in productivity due to added internet speed?"  The answer is "yes."  And, in addition to a subtle, albeit noticeable increase in productivity, there is a noticeable absence of the customary frustration that comes with slow download speeds.

Bottom Line

Making a switch to a faster internet speed will improve your daily productivity and happiness level (from not having the daily "uugghh!" moments as the internet takes it sweet ole time to get from site to site or open something you need NOW!).

Happy surfing!  Your thoughts and comments are always welcomed.  And, if we're not connected on Twitter, let's fix that!  GlenGilmore

LinkedIn Co-Founder Sees A "Bluer" Future for LinkedIn

“I’m with LinkedIn,” he said, or something to that effect, when he introduced himself.  What he didn’t say is, “I’m the co-founder of LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional social network,” though, he could have.

I met Allen Blue, LinkedIn co-founder, at a reception hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, while in Amman attending MENA-ICT, a tech forum hosted by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.  

When you arrived at the Ambassador's reception, you said hello to a number of friendly faces from the U.S. Embassy, then meandered into a hall filled with chairs for the obligatory presentations before the reception.  Folks just mingled.

I spotted someone standing aside, not chatting with anyone at the moment, so, I thought I’d strike up a conversation.  I introduced myself as “Glen Gilmore from New Jersey,” figuring the stranger to be a fellow American.  “Allen Blue, from Silicon Valley, I work with LinkedIn,” he replied.  I kidded him about whether or not he really lived in Silicon Valley or whether that was simply something everyone from California now says.  Silly me.

What struck me most about Blue, apart from his very down-to-earth, friendly manner, was the passion he showed for an even brighter future for LinkedIn and the possibilities of social media to help solve one of the most pressing challenges of the day, job creation.

LinkedIn Means Business

Blue explained that he hoped to see LinkedIn evolve to where more people tapped its potential, namely, its ability to match skills with job vacancies and mentors.  What he said is that there are so many people looking for jobs today while there are still many businesses looking for talent for their businesses.  He suggested neither employers nor job seekers were doing the best job of using LinkedIn for their respective needs.

A “Bluer” Future for LinkedIn?

Blue also said that he would like to see a more expansive use of LinkedIn that was not simply the domain of white-collar “professionals,” but also included more blue-collar workers as well.  He almost seemed to have a sparkle in his eye when he mentioned this.  It seemed to be about bringing the benefits of LinkedIn to a greater community, a bold move that would likely alienate some, but encourage even more.

MENA – One of the Last, Big Frontiers for Social

Asked about his presence at the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) conference, he said, “It's one of the last big frontiers,” speaking of the region. 

This is not to suggest that social isn’t already big in MENA, it’s huge.  But, with a burgeoning, young population, it will only get bigger, especially for a social network that has previously focused on established "professionals" and now may be positioning for a broader community base.

A Founder Who Hasn't Lost His Eye for Growth or Innovation

We had taken our seats during the speeches, and then moved on to another room for the reception.  We continued our chat until we both left the reception.  It was nice to spend some time with someone like Blue who had trekked to the conference to share his passion for a social network that he envisions as holding keys to a better, more connected future for us all.  It was enlightening, too, to hear that his vision for the network includes a broader, "bluer" community.

Connect with Me on LinkedIn!

I always invite folks to join me on @GlenGilmore, but, for this post, let me also invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn!

Social Media Is About Taking Chances

Taking the stage at MENA-ICT and touring Amman.

Whenever you share a thought, you are taking a chance it’ll be rejected or ridiculed.  Whenever you reach out to another person, you are taking chance that they may not wish to connect with you.  So, social media is all about taking chances, because it is about sharing ideas and making new connections.

An Invitation to Speak in Jordan, Home of the Magical City of Petra – and a Startup Hub?

A few months ago, I received an invitation to speak at a technology and digital media conference for the Middle East and North Africa, MENA-ICT.  The invitation included travel and accommodations.  The conference was being hosted “under the patronage” of His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, in Amman. 

Not being familiar with the conference, I reached out to a friend in Dubai, who I only knew from Twitter, to ask if she knew anything about the conference.  She assured me MENA-ICT is one of the biggest and best tech conferences in the Middle East and that Amman is considered the “Silicon Valley” of the Middle East. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Like most, I knew of Jordan for the magical, “forgotten city” of Petra, a city carved in stone made famous by the Indiana Jones movie, “Raiders of the Lost Arc.”  I also knew Jordan to be a strong ally of the U.S., a rare example of stability in the Middle East, and a Kingdom with a particularly stunning Queen.  I didn’t know much else about Jordan.  I certainly hadn’t thought of it as a startup incubator before, though that understanding has changed.

We Trust People in our Social Media Networks

Consider for a moment the fact that when it came to assessing the decision to participate in a conference across the globe, it wasn’t Google I turned to.  Instead, it was a friend from Twitter, a friend from Dubai, whom I had never met “in real life.”  Still, from our exchanges on Twitter over the course of about three years, I knew her well enough to trust her.   We trust our social networks, not the platforms, but the communities populated by people we come to know over time.

An American in the Middle East

“Are you sure this is the right time to be going to the Middle East,” many asked when they learned of my decision to speak in Jordan.  “Yes,” I would answer, usually adding a remark that if I stayed home I might be likely to break my neck slipping in my shower.

Sadly, at the moment, frightening headlines from the region dominate the news and are not nuanced.  It is “the Middle East” and it is real reason for pause, at least to Americans.

Why Go to the Middle East When It Is Haunted by so Much Violence?

Here’s what I thought.  I am educator, an instructor of Digital and Social Media Marketing at Rutgers University, in New Jersey.  Rather than ask how could I go, I asked, how could I not?  How could I possibly turn down an opportunity to learn first hand about my field of instruction from thought leaders in digital and technology in an emerging part of the world that is so important to the future of the entire world?

I get a lot of invitations to speak at conferences; yet, this was my first to speak in the Middle East.  If anything, for me, world events made it more compelling that I go.  Shouldn’t we strive harder to learn from our friends and share what we can at moments when others might not be so willing to do so?

I do take my role as an educator seriously.  Although it is a “part-time” role, it is a full-time profession.  With the privilege of teaching comes the responsibility of learning.  I would go.  It was never really much of a question.  And, my supportive and always-concerned wife would simply take a deep breadth and tell me once again to do whatever I thought I should do (yes, I am a lucky man!).

Jordan Is Social

In advance of my trip to Jordan, I started listening carefully to the conversation on Twitter about Jordan.  I discovered a vibrant, friendly stream.  A few tweets about my plans to speak at MENA-ICT, in Jordan, quickly connected me with a number of very friendly people from Jordan.  I hadn’t known anyone living in Jordan before this trip.  I would meet many new friends in Amman.

A welcoming tweet and treat!
In Social, Jordanian Hospitality Takes the Cake – Or, More Precisely, the Cupcake

I’ll provide more detail about this in a later post.  Suffice it to say, I wanted to test @SheratonAmman, the hotel where I would be staying, on their social media savvy.  They have a Twitter account.  I tweeted them.  They take the (cup)cake for social media hospitality!  Post to follow!

The Taxi Test

Wherever you go in the world, getting into a taxi is one of the quickest ways to learn about an area.  Needing a ride back to my hotel from the conference, I asked a couple people if they knew where the official shuttle was.  No one did, but then one person said that I could always flag a cab on the street outside the gate of the campus.  It is a busy street.  A smiled a little faintly, not sure how smart it would be for me, a hard-to-hide American, to flag down and jump into a random cab by myself on a busy street in Amman.  I did.

“Where you from,” my driver asked, after we had exchanged our hello’s and I had given my destination.  “America,” I answered.  “’Google Glass,’ how much you pay for this,” he asked in English that was light years ahead of the one or two words I spoke in Arabic.  I had forgotten I was still wearing my Google Glass, an appropriate wear for a tech conference, but, not so much anywhere else.   I told him.

So, within the course of moments, we had established that I was an American and wearing a $1,500 tech device.  So what happened next?  The start of a nice conversation with my thirty-something driver about technology and jobs and an assurance from him that, “You are very welcome in my country,” with a warmth that could be felt.  He smiled as I let him try on the Google Glass at a red light.

Beyond the friendliness of the taxi driver, how did Amman fare on the “taxi test”?  I noted that my driver actually turned on his meter the moment I had gotten into his cab, an act of integrity that often escapes cabbies detecting a stranger in their cab. I also got to my destination quickly, without hitting any “unexpected” traffic or taking any extended routes.  Jordan aced the taxi test!

The MENA-ICT:  A High-Speed Tech Conference in a Start-Up Incubator Campus that was Once A Military Base

MENA-ICT covered, with a broad spectrum of participants, topics ranging from “disruptive innovation,” the Internet of Things, cloud computing, mobile payments, entrepreneurship, ecommerce, ethics in social media marketing, and much more!  Speakers, in addition to yours truly, included the likes of Habib Haddad, the CEO of Wamda, an organization supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the MENA region, to Allen Blue, co-founder of LinkedIn.

The venue of the event is noteworthy.  It was previously a military base.  It is now an incubator for sixty startups, where entrepreneurs are provided with space that has free wireless, Internet service, and access to funding, expertise and mentors. 

Nothing says more about the priorities and promise of Jordan than this.  How much better would it be for us all if it could become a trend for the future!

A Visit to the Conference by His Majesty and the Queen

In a powerful gesture of personal commitment to the purpose of fostering technological education and investment in Jordan and MENA, the King and Queen of Jordan both graced the conference with their presence.  There was no perfunctory speech as you might expect.  Instead, the King and Queen graciously took a seat to listen in on one of the presentations.  Throughout the conference, many high-ranking Jordanian officials sat in the audience, listening to a wide range of speakers whose only charge was to share some insights.

If You’re Going Out to Eat In a New Place, Best to Go with a Food Blogger!

Jordan is also a food capital!
Now, though I didn’t get to personally meet Jordan’s King and Queen, I did get to meet one of Jordan’s top food bloggers, Lama Haddadin, better known to some from her blog, “Caramelized Thoughts.”  She had seen my tweets about Jordan, welcomed me and offered her assistance during my stay.  Seeing that she was a food blogger, I insisted that she join me for an authentic Jordanian meal - at an establishment of her choosing!  She was kind enough to accept my invitation and we had a feast that can only be called one of the finest meals I have ever had!

Signs of Heightened Security

You will see some signs of security in Jordan that are heavier than you may be accustomed to, such as security that has drivers open the trunk of their car before pulling up to a hotel, or a machine gun post as you approach the airport.  Still, these are not so surprising when compared to the rigors of TSA and M16-carrying soldiers at U.S. airports and train stations.  And, there never seemed to be heavy-handedness in any of the presence.  It was more reassuring than unnerving.

Some Things I Learned During My Visit to Jordan
  1. Jordanians are among the friendliest people anywhere.  They are quick to make eye contact, smile and extend a heart-felt welcome to strangers.
  2. Amman really is a startup capital with a government intent on investing the resources to make startups into real businesses.
  3. People of all ages in Jordan and the Middle East are struck with startup fever, eager to create innovative businesses that tap technology and social and promise to create greater efficiencies for us all – and jobs!
  4. The topic of the day in Jordan is not politics, it is innovation – how to tap the energy, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit that touches young and old alike to create more jobs and a more vibrant economy.
  5. Investment in “disruptive innovation” is giving Jordan an edge and the Middle East a model that all can take encouragement from.
  6. The passion of Jordanians is a passion that focuses on building a better future; where so many others simply see great despair, many Jordanians see hope.
  7. Media in the West must do a better job of sharing the larger story of the Middle East, a burgeoning region where a growing population has not given up on hope or dreaming big, positive dreams.
  8. Others can and should do more to foster economic growth in emerging markets in MENA.  The U.S. Aid Jordan Competitiveness Program, which was prominent in its participation and support of the MENA-ICT conference, is one example of such investment, facilitating an initiative that encourages Jordanians living abroad to share their success to help grow the Jordanian economy.  It is a smart program that fosters partnerships and investment from those best situated to understand the potential for economic growth in Jordan, Jordanians living, working and prospering abroad.
  9. The state of being social – and the willing to take chances - remains the best way to create new friendships and opportunities in places we may never have imagined!
  10. To discover a place where the startup spirit is strong and the future is bright:  #GoJordan!  (Official Twitter hashtag for Jordanian tourism.)  And look beyond Petra, as other historic sites populate Jordan and make it worth a visit!

 I’d love to hear any comments you’d care to make and to connect with you on Twitter:  @GlenGilmore