US Sweet Potato Production – Thanksgiving Viz

Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Data Analysis, Tableau, Tech

Tableau worked with data to create a Regional Thanksgiving Recipe visualization. Knowing that sweet potatoes are popular here in North Carolina – that got me hungry for more data on sweet potato production. I grabbed some data from the USDA, learned a bit about sweet potatoes, a bit about measuring crop production – and bam, I noticed something that wasn’t immediately clear to me. At risk of showcasing my ignorance of farming, I opted to go ahead and publish this viz at that point. Often data visualization is about accidental discovery. Often visualizing the data helps you see the questions that should really be asked of others that are closer to the subject matter. I didn’t see this dip in the raw data when it was buried in that USDA archive, but as soon as I used a tool to visualize it – something jumped out. Something changed abruptly in 1950. Did sweet potato production really drop? Did we change incentives / policy on production quotas? Is there something odd with how the production was tracked? Did new health information curb interest? Data will always tell you something. In this case it may tell us that I was sleeping in US History class. Regardless, this is exactly how data analysis works in the real world. Sometimes you have to gather the family and appreciate the insights from others as you recall your fortunate history you turkeys. Enjoy some sweet potato pie. Happy Thanksgiving!
Since that data stopped at 2010 – I decided to take a look at google trends for searches on ‘sweet potatoes’ too. Imagine that, seasonality.:

Triangle Startup Weekend – Education #TSWEDU

Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Entrepreneur, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech

Triangle Startup Weekend TSWEDU

Triangle Startup Weekend – EDU style.  Finally a 2 day weekend with the first signs of spring weather. So after a full week of work inside away from the cold, what could be better than to put on a pair of shorts and log another 40 hours inside? To be fair – I was standing on the shoulders of giants and the view from up there was worth every second. And by standing, of course I mean that I was chilling inside of a super posh space, on a beanbag at @HUBRaleigh . As for these massive giants – were they scary? They were scary smart. These giants were my new found Triangle Startup Weekend @coursefork teammates, three of which I had never met until Friday night. One of them, Elliott Hauser @hauspoor came with a brilliant concept. He is an impressive, passionate educator at the University of North Carolina. You won’t get that sentence from me but once, ever. In fact, I just lost 20 years of Wolfpack street cred – so that tells you how impressive he is. After his pitch attracted two developers that seemed to gel immediately – it was like watching a jam session as they banged out and merged code.

Triangle Startup Weekend brings out familiar Triangle entrepreneurial giants every time, but this specific TSW was focused on education. The focus on that niche brought out additional giants from distant fee-fi-fo-fiefdoms for the event. Educators came from Raleigh, Durham, Chapel-Hill, and from counties throughout NC that I had never even heard of. Ok, I had heard of the counties, but that was a long time ago and I can blame my NC education for not making all 100 county names stick. (Too soon?)

Educators were not only there to provide subject matter input, they were there to pitch their startup *solutions* to problems they see firsthand. They brought passion from the daily front lines of helping students succeed. There were K-12 teachers, workshop builders, professors from UNC, NC State, Davidson, Duke, and even one from Western Michigan. There were students from as far as California, and there were NCState students, and many UNC students and graduates participating throughout the weekend too. (Let’s go Wolfpack family for TSW later this year!) These people were excited enough about the possibilities and potential for innovation in education that they were willing to drive many hours to an event to contribute. It was powerful to see roughly 1/3rd of a room filled with educators that were essentially risk-seeking investors. While they weren’t necessarily “VC” investors, there is no doubt that the investments they made were substantial. They seeded us all with inspiration and further recognition that we have some of the most amazing educators in the world here in NC – and especially here in the Triangle. I was left with little doubt that we have the ability to create innovative systems, processes, and tools to help these passionate educators and ultimately their students – thrive.

More on the weekend events coming soon…

Including more on our winning team of giants @coursefork – and a startup that is about to fork with your collective minds:
  • coursefork
  • Elliott Hauser | @hauspoor
  • Eric Martindale | @martindale
  • Matt Hoffman | @matt_thinks_so
  • Vance Fitzgerald | @vancefitzgerald
  • Derrick McIver |

  • TriangleStartupWeekend
  • @TriangleStartup
  • Triangle Entrepreneur Week – Twitter Visualization

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Data Analysis, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech, Twitter

    Social dashboard I built to visually monitor events like Triangle Entrepreneur Week – Raleigh, NC. More info on the fantastic events that transpired can be found here: Originally Published Nov 15th

    Raleigh vs Durham vs Triangle

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in NCSU, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech

    This @jproco thread got me thinking 
    As sexy as a subset of Durham is, it seems fair to say that IF you look at these as two distinct systems, Durham as a whole is not as appealing as Raleigh. Polarizing statement, perhaps, but settle down blue friends.  Clearly Durham is doing something very right though - else this would be an easy discussion. Raleigh is the North Carolina State Capitol, and it’s simply not going to crumble overnight.  Raleigh will be just fine for some period of time.  But that is not a solution nor a strategy for the future, and being just fine doesn’t cut it. So you settle down for a second too, red friends.  It is that subtle complacency that is a potentially big problem for Raleigh.  Embracing uncertainty and change, and being courageous enough to evolve and thrive vs. settle, is much easier when there is necessity.  According to most, necessity is also the mother of invention.  Durham has risen in part because of necessity and is spawning invention thanks to a growing number of bulls.  You are simply more likely to get people to change when there is a burning platform.  And the price is right then too. Raleigh doesn’t seem to sense a burning platform.  I’m just fearful of a slow roast if we don’t smell the smoke.  I believe that Raleigh is going to have to incent fast microfailures vs. marinating for a long slow macroast.  That is hard to say on paper, and even harder to make reality. But Raleigh has access to roughly the same critical three T’s as Durham – Technology, Talent, & Tin Cup (capital), so there aren't going to be any excuses when we look back and try to figure out how Durham blew up. I'm good with growing an obtuse Triangle, its all commutable. But from a Raleigh lens - there are simply no excuses for letting it be anything less than equilateral. 
    Meanwhile Durham is escaping what might have been perceived to be (that is me cushioning the message to avoid further polarization) a burning platform.  That burn appears to be helping Durham see the potential reward of small business bets and allowing them to have much less fear of the risks.  They are building critical mass, and please don’t let us underestimate critical mass for startups.   Startups are more likely to thrive together and much more likely to flail in isolation.  I’ve read blog posts and replies from James Avery for literally years now that should be the most compelling burning platform smoke detector for Raleigh.  To me he his cry for help from Raleigh should be listened to like a screaming toddler on the 4th floor of a burning building.  Fortunately there are a lot of brilliant folks pushing like crazy in Raleigh, but the sense of urgency from the masses has to happen sooner rather than later.  First to market would have been nice, but Raleigh may have missed that boat.  Perhaps we have survived thus far due to a massive talent pool.  But critical mass in other areas of the country will create a growing gravitational pull if we don’t offset it.  Not only will that be bad for the future of the region, but bad for the Universities themselves.  You see how this ecosystem works?
    If you are paying close enough attention you will also have seen the ad-hoc alliances that have formed in Durham across the startups.  You could argue that it’s because they have such magical products right out of the gate that they can’t help but choose to use their cross town startup’s product.  Or you could step back and realize that they are using each other’s products in part because of a simple yet powerful sense of team.  Can there be any other region in the WORLD that grasps TEAM & what the color of your jersey can do for the psyche?  This region should be able to relate to that if nothing else.  It is a magical thing my hatred of *cough* Rhode Island blue.  These startups are eating each other’s dog food, being each others best customer's, and in turn helping make sure that they will all ultimately be delivering wine.  That collaboration simply doesn’t happen between two companies that don’t share some common sense of purpose, perhaps some common enemies. And it happens much more often when they can share a beer tab, or make a food truck visit for lunch with each other.  We need to make sure that we have a shared sense of common enemies as we stand together in the Triangle.
    In an ideal world - we would do a flyover and see that this is really a single ecosystem, not two distinct, independent entities with a winner takes all outcome at stake. With the rate of change accelerating today, with enough backing from the big veteran companies of the region, and with enough smart people pushing the envelope – a Triangle All Star mentality is not completely idealistic. Somebody hug me.
    Recommendation 1:
    Build a diagram that shows alliances in the Triangle.  Connections indicate customers / partner relationships.  Direction of the arrows are open for discussion, but hopefully several will be synchronous.  This will help others to literally see the symbiotic results of creating a supportive, collaborative infrastructure in the region.   Build a single diagram for the Triangle and it will paint an informative picture. Concept:
      Recommendation 2:
    Go watch basketball this summer at the NCPROAM in Durham if you’d like an indication of just how exciting the blending of the blues & reds can be.  It’s even open source.

    Magic Formula of Gamification

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Data Analysis, Tech

    “Place the proper triggers in the behavioral trajectory of motivated players, at the moment when they feel the greatest excess in their ability”

    -Michael Wu

    This deck by Michael Wu on Gamification is fantastic.  It’s a hype word – I know this. Clearly though, the concepts that he outlines here are far from just flash in the pan hype. Take a look:

    Cisco General Counsel Role and the Innovation of Innovating

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Tech

    Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Cisco. Mark talks head on about a question that I’ve always had…. Why do the (generalization coming) world’s slowest innovation adopters (attorneys) often get earmarked in corporations to be the ones to drive innovation and champion change.  Mark’s changes have been recognized by his industry peers for breaking that stereotype.  And kudo’s to Mark for using the B-Roll footage of my good friends Ken Patton and Steve Ricossa making hard work look easy.  

    North Carolina Startups to Watch

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in NCSU, North Carolina, Raleigh, Tech

    This is a work in progress… last update 5/28 I track several of these and their leaders via the Startup Watchlist – so you can follow along there too!

    Company to Watch



    Year Founded


    3tailer Charlotte NC
    6Fusion  Raleigh NC 2008
    ACF Technologies, Inc.  Asheville NC 2003
    Advanced Liquid Logic, Inc.  Morrisville NC 2004
    Affinergy Inc. Durham NC
    Amidon Contracting Solutions, Inc.  Youngsville NC 2006
    Argand Energy Solutions  Charlotte NC 2007
    Argyle Social  Durham NC 2009
    Automated Insights, Inc.  Durham NC 2007
    Bennett Aerospace, Inc. Cary NC
    BioAgilytix Labs RTP NC
    BioResource International. Inc. Morrisville NC
    BlueStripe Software, Inc. RTP NC
    Bronto Software Durham NC
    Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Inc.  Moravian Falls NC 1977
    Chimerix, Inc. Durham NC
    Clinipace Worldwide NC
    Combat Medical Systems  Fayetteville NC 2008
    Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems, Inc. NC
    DataChambers, LLC NC
    Digitalsmiths NC
    Dorsett Technologies, Inc. Yadkinville NC
    Dry Corp, LLC Wilmington NC
    d-Wise Technologies  Raleigh NC 2003
    Emergency Technologies, Inc. Raleigh NC
    Entex Technologies Inc. NC
    EvoApp  Durham NC 2009
    Expression Analysis Durham NC
    Figure Eight Technologies Greenville NC
    FLS Energy Asheville NC
    Geomagic NC NC
    Hickory Nut Gap Farm NC
    Ignite Social Media NC
    Infina Connect Healthcare Systems, Inc.  Cary NC 2010
    Inlet Technologies NC
    Intelligent Access Systems  Garner NC 2004
    Jackrabbit Technologies NC
    K3 Enterprises, Inc. NC
    Kyma Technologies, Inc. RTP NC
    Liquidia Technologies, Inc. RTP NC
    LoneRider Brewing Company NC
    Mariner Container, LLC  Granite Falls NC 2002
    MercuryGate International NC
    Moog Music, Inc. NC
    Mother Earth Brewing  Kinston NC 2008
    Netsertive, Inc.  Research Triangle Park NC 2009
    PharPoint Research, Inc.  Durham NC 2005
    Piedmont Pharmaceuticals, LLC Greensboro NC
    PocketGear, Inc. NC
    Prometheus Group  Raleigh NC 1998
    Relevance, Inc.  Durham NC 2003
    Replay Photos, LLC NC
    Riley Life Logistics NC
    SciMetrika, LLC RTP NC
    Semprius, Inc. NC
    ShareFile NC
    ShopBot Tools, Inc. NC
    Skookum Digital Works Charlotte NC
    Smarter Systems  Charlotte NC 2008
    Southern Energy Management Morrisville NC
    Southern Fasteners and Supply, Inc.  Winston-Salem NC 1982
    Spoonflower Durham NC
    The Mother Earth Group, Inc. Charlotte NC 1989
    The Select Group NC
    Themis Group, Inc. NC
    TheraSim, Inc. NC
    TransEnterix, Inc. NC
    TransLoc, Inc. Raleigh NC
    Tranzyme Pharma NC
    Valencell, Inc.  Raleigh NC 2006
    Varrow, Inc. Greensboro NC
    XS, Inc.  Morrisville NC 1998
    Zift Solutions, Inc.  Durham NC 2006
    Romotive Las Vegas NV 2010

    Bionic Man : First Bionic Hand that can Feel to be Transplanted This Year

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Science, Tech


    Bionic Man? After successful tests with the external prototype, the world’s first bionic hand that can feel is to be transplanted this year. Unclear yet whether the 6 million dollars includes animated gif stop motion like effects with the nanananananananananahhh sound. New Zealand Herald Story

    2011 Cisco Pioneer Award

    Written by Vance Fitzgerald. Posted in Tech

    I have worked now for 11 years with people that are amazing and tireless troubleshooters, thinkers, innovators, strategists, creators, workaholics, and givers.  I’m humbled every day, and especially humbled to be recognized among so many brilliant people for the Pioneer award.  The collaboration that got us on the stage was the most gratifying part, and has established the foundation for what I told John would bring us back to drink wine together next year…
    Vance Fitzgerald Pioneer Award

    2011 Cisco Pioneer Award

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