Austin Gunter's Blog

December 3, 2009

Changing Minds to Change the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Austin @ 8:19 pm

Everyone knows the accomplishments of Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.  Gandhi freed the Indian nation from British imperialism, and Nelson Mandela peaceably brought South Africa out of Apartheid and into a beautiful multi-cultural nation.

Change Minds to Change the World

Change Minds to Change the World

Big Deal.

These stories are known and celebrated throughout the world, and to be honest, they are stories that I have ignored in the past.  When a conversation turned to Gandhi or Mandela in the past, I’ve gotten that glazed look in my eyes that resembles my look after eating a huge plate of turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving; right when the tryptophan is kicking in.

However, (Hooray, a however!) last night I had a breakthrough in how I understand these stories.  Last night was the first time that I could break the stories of Mandela and Gandhi into meaningful chunks.  It was the first time I understood how these men sought to change their communities and ended up changing the world.

I’ve been reading a book called Changing Minds by Howard Gardner.  The book takes a cognitive (as opposed to behaviorist, I didn’t know that one either…) perspective on the traits shared by world changing leaders like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

The book analyzes how their actions affect prevailing opinions and worldviews.  Gardner outlines that in order for leaders to change the world they must always change peoples’ minds first.

Sometimes great leaders change a few powerful minds, and sometimes they change the minds of millions.  Gardner shows how this happens.  Mohandas Gandhi peacefully effected the mind change of the British imperialists in India, and the entire world felt the ripples of this change.  Nelson Mandela also used peaceful methods to change minds, and the state of South Africa in the process.

Gardner boils down the changes of Gandhi and Mandela into two basic elements.  The elements are meaningful to me directly at Tech Ranch Austin and with the growing BarnBuildr process.  Gardner illustrates that Gandhi and Mandela had compelling stories revolving around the better world the envisioned, AND each man’s life was congruent with the stories that they told.  Both showed the world that changes on a national level are possible peacefully.  Both sought reconciliation of disparate populations by accepting the past and moving to a new future.

Change Minds to Change the World

Change Minds to Change the World

Gandhi’s insistence on peace nearly cost him everything, yet he pressed on through hunger and the risk of death.  Mandela spent 27 years in prison, but in his belief in reconciliation was so strong he elevated his one-time jailor to a position of prominence.  Both men’s lives resonated with the story they asked their nations to believe and participate in.  Their lives had to resonate with their stories in order to make the difference.  They lived it.  Without hunger strikes, Gandhi is a run-of-the-mill dissident.  Without his jailor sitting on the front row for his presidential inauguration, Mandela has no credibility.

I’m going to be spending my cycles in December establishing the story that BarnBuildr tells.  Part of the story is in place already.  We have established a program that connects entrepreneurs with free help.  This represents an opportunity for Austin-Area entrepreneurs to build their ventures forward, so to speak.  As we move to the next level, we will have to change the general perception about how business is done.  The story of how we do this together is being written.  The title is called BarnBuildr.  The epilogue shall begin: Austin drove the success of entrepreneurs by connecting unique opportunity to the Tech Ranch community of entrepreneurs.

I invite all of you to join the BarnBuildr cast of characters.  I can’t wait to meet you as the plot thickens.

I hope that helps.


November 23, 2009

Two Jobs in a Down Economy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Austin @ 9:57 pm
Two Jobs in a Down Economy

Two Jobs in a Down Economy, Is that greedy?

One of the more challenging things about graduating college in 2009 was finding a job in a down economy.  Our economy’s outlook was so severe that even George Martin, St. Edward’s University President, spent most of his graduation address on some hard facts about the reality we faced once we walked the other side of our stage, diploma in hand.  He didn’t pull any punches.  By flipping our tassels to the “college graduate” side of our caps we were stepping into an uncertain future.  Our diplomas might be worth very little on today’s job market.  We looked around at each another, decked out in our robes and new clothes, each of us started thinking, “grad school looks more appealing” thoughts, and, “getting service-industry” thoughts, and, “living with mom and dad” thoughts.  None of us knew where our jobs were going to come from in the coming months.

I’m six months out of college now.  Three of those months I spent in limbo.  But since the week before my birthday in August, I’ve been working two jobs at Austin-Area start-ups.  I’m in the minority of my classmates.  Even my valedictorian with the double major is working at a burger joint, I hear.  I consider it a blessing.  I’ve been getting paid (not much, but seriously) to work and LEARN how to start a business from people who are actually doing it.

I’m working as a part of a small sales team to do market research while we open the sales pipeline at company called Conformity.  Conformity has made huge leaps in Cloud-Computing security.  They have developed a platform for Identity and Access Management across multiple Software as a Service Applications, like Salesforce and Xactly.  This ability is a huge deal for a publicly traded company that must adhere to federal SOX compliance standards.

I also work for Tech Ranch Austin, the entrepreneurial accelerator that is going to network Central Texas Entrepreneurs and create value through education and bootstrap resources.  The Tech Ranch was started by serial Austin entrepreneurs, Kevin Koym and Jonas Lamis.  They started the Ranch as a way to involve themselves in as many local start-ups as possible by providing one-of-a-kind resources to accelerate ventures as a compliment to the Venture Capital model of start-ups.

How did this Writing and Rhetoric major get jobs at start-up companies?  I have no idea. I do know that my rhetoric classes have come in handy working with Don, my sales manager, as we constantly refine the sales and marketing pitch.  Surely my passion for communicating has made me an asset at Tech Ranch.  My writing degree has made me the go-to guy for certain kinds of content at both places.  What I do know is that the education I’m receiving at the hands of two sets of entrepreneurs is laying a foundation for future ventures that I may start.

I’m not sure where I will end up yet.  But I’m sure that my future will materialize shortly.  At the moment, I’m too busy to worry about it too much.  After all, I have two jobs to work.

Hope this helps.


October 26, 2009

BarnBuilders at Tech Ranch Austin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Austin @ 10:44 pm

BarnBuilders at Tech Ranch AustinThe way that I am currently working to architect connections in Austin right now is through a program at the Tech Ranch called the BarnBuilders.  We are targeting the substantial amount of folks that are highly trained in the various Technology companies, like Dell and IBM, that helped make Austin a bit of a “satellite campus” for Silicon Valley.  There are thousands of these highly trained people, in both technology and the business side of things, who are out of work in Austin these days.  The unemployment level is better than most of the nation.  However, the fact remains that thousands of jobs have gone missing, and some may never return.

There is a huge upside to the downturn.  In the past 10 years, more than 60% of the jobs created in the United States have been in groups of 10 people or less.  Read: Entrepreneurs will save the economy.  Read: Accelerate your local Entrepreneur.

The BarnBuilders program helps both entrepreneurs, as well as the unemployed talent in the Austin Area.  How do we help both groups out?  We provide ventures with a huge network of volunteer help from the local talent pool currently in full-time job search mode.  The entrepreneurs benefit from what they can achieve from free help.  The talent gains because by volunteering they are able to hone their experience, add a project or two to their résumés, or even get hired.

The thing that we do is build the bridge between the entrepreneurs and the talent so that they know who to go looking for.  Our network helps people bridge the chasm of knowing who needs to hire someone.

I was hired to work at the Tech Ranch because I volunteered my time there.  I met Kevin at a networking event and told him I loved how the Tech Ranch was helping people start their own ventures.  I asked if I could volunteer at the Ranch while I looked for work.  After a two or three weeks, I had proven myself with my work and they hired me.  My volunteer time turned into an extended interview process.

Don’t you agree that this process is more effective than blindly sending out résumés?

October 10, 2009

What is a Social Architect?

Bridging the gap to network entrepreneurs

Bridging the gap to network entrepreneurs

This blog is going to take shape according to my work with Tech Ranch Austin and the BarnBuilders.  People ask me pretty regularly what it is that I’m doing at the Tech Ranch that I’m always so excited about.  I have a hard time coming up with a static answer because the things that I do are constant only in their ability to change every day.  This is frustrating for my listener as well as for me because I often stumble around for catchphrases or conceptually rich words that will clearly illustrate that which I spend all my time and energy doing at the Tech Ranch.

The catchphrase that I have started using most often, Social Architect, has, thus far, not done much to clarify my nebulous rhetoric.  I’m going to fix that right now, and define Social Architect as I see it.  So for those of you looking to cross-reference at Urban Dictionary, don’t.  It won’t be there.  This is Austin defining Austin.  Who woulda thought, right?

When I use the catchphrase, Social Architect, I am referring to the process of building a social connection, a bridge, if you will, between formerly disparate individuals.  The goal is to create a connection that would otherwise not exist between two people.  This connection allows both parties to engage in what I call a dialogue of value where each party freely shares knowledge and resources with the other.  The dialogue of value, where each party shares their unique information, means that both parties are measurably better off by participating in the dialogue because they both received specialized information for free.  This free information may be put to use to take an entrepreneurial venture to the next level, or to create a new product.  Other times the information results in a partnership between the newly connected parties.  However, the inevitable result is a net gain for both parties as a result of their connection.

As a Social Architect, my job is to facilitate that connection and build bridges between people who will have a tangible benefit to one another.

This is the basic idea behind the Tech Ranch BarnBuilders. More information may be found at the link, and I’ll write about it in my next post.  The BarnBuilders is a group of Austin-Area entrepreneurs and local tech talent helping one another out.

Hope that helps.  Until next time.

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