8 episodes

The Campfire podcast seeks to explore the state of innovation across America. From startups to scale-ups, online academies to universities, students to CEOs, we'll be chatting with experts who help make America a more innovative nation.

Presented By
Fifth Tribe: DC's Digital Agency

Campfire: The Impact & Innovation Podcast Fifth Tribe

    • Technology

The Campfire podcast seeks to explore the state of innovation across America. From startups to scale-ups, online academies to universities, students to CEOs, we'll be chatting with experts who help make America a more innovative nation.

Presented By
Fifth Tribe: DC's Digital Agency

    Sammy Popat (Discovery District, UMD) - Curating Campus Connections for Entrepreneurship

    Sammy Popat (Discovery District, UMD) - Curating Campus Connections for Entrepreneurship

    What do renowned entrepreneurs Sergey Brin, Tim Sweeney, and Brendan Iribe have in common? They all studied at the University of Maryland! Today on the Campfire podcast, a podcast about impact and innovation from our nation’s capital, host Khuram Zaman of Fifth Tribe invites guest Sammy Popat to discuss the history of entrepreneurship at UMD, as well as the role of the Discovery District in fostering an entrepreneurial community at the university. Sammy is a UMD campus connector and the manager of the Discovery District, and he offers much insight into the ways in which UMD has established itself as an entrepreneurial powerhouse.

    UMD has a large campus, boasts tens of thousands of students, and includes many colleges; thus, it takes a herculean effort to foster the connections and cooperation necessary for an innovation ecosystem to flourish across the institution. This is where Sammy and his fellow campus connectors come in, as they provide access to mentors, expert input, and other resources that help innovators as they develop and test ideas and work toward and through the process of commercialization. UMD’s entrepreneurial synergy is also aided by its research park, the Discovery District, which fosters relationships between innovators, companies, and the community, and provides an ideal setting for study and for turning good ideas into concrete realities.

    The project of the Discovery District is well represented by UMD alumnus Jim Henson, of the Muppets fame, who mastered the art of puppetry in conjunction with the new technology of television. In a similar fashion, the aim of the Discovery District is to see innovators develop mastery and then add in the aspect of scaling. Sammy explains how students and companies can gain entrance to the district, drawing on the example of Airgility. Startups settled within the district have access to Sammy and his colleagues, who help however possible to see the businesses grow. Sammy wants to see organizations become known, go through testing, feel at home, and commercialize - all with UMD’s responsibility to its community in view. He has a hand in issues of investing, diversification, partnership with the I-Corps program, and much more, and has played a key role in seeing UMD begin to punch above its weight - something he expects it will only do more and more.

    Connect with Sammy Popat on Twitter and LinkedIn.
    Connect with the Discovery District and StartupUMD on Twitter.
    Learn more about Sammy and his work at innovate.umd.edu.
    You can reach Sammy by email at spopat@umd.edu.
    Learn more about Khuram Zaman and connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
    Access Campfire podcast videos on YouTube.
    Connect with Fifth Tribe on Facebook for more on the business and Campfire podcast!

    0:46 - Welcomes Sammy
    3:22 - What are campus connectors?
    6:27 - Entrepreneurship Ecosystems
    11:01 - What is the Discovery District?
    16:15 - Growth of UMD’s campus and community relations
    18:50 - Innovation at UMD
    24:00 - Entrepreneurship in the region
    27:40 - How can an entrepreneur gain entrance to the Research Park?
    35:35 - Specific areas sought after within the Research Park
    37:46 - What assistance does the Discovery District offer to businesses?
    44:00 - How commercialization can generate revenue for universities
    47:07 - How and when did the Discovery District begin?
    49:40 - Recent developments and additions on campus
    55:16 - Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
    58:00 - Function of student pitch competitions
    59:35 - Innovation Core Program
    1:02:00 - How Sammy and his colleagues support student entrepreneurship endeavors
    1:06:00 - Sammy offers his perspective on entrepreneurship
    1:06:40 - Closing words and advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Carlos Centeno (MIT Solve) - Can We Crowdsource Solutions to the World's Biggest Challenges?

    Carlos Centeno (MIT Solve) - Can We Crowdsource Solutions to the World's Biggest Challenges?

    Can we crowdsource solutions for the world’s biggest challenges? In this episode of Campfire Podcast, a podcast about impact and innovation from our nation’s capital, hosts Khuram Zaman and Adam Motiwala of Fifth Tribe interview Carlos Centeno to find out. Carlos is the Lead of Economic Prosperity Community at MIT Solve, a marketplace for Social Impact Innovation. In 2020 they provided over $2 million in funding for a variety of global challenges, producing over 2,600 solutions from 135 countries.

    Before MIT, Carlos specialized in community planning and emergency preparedness with the UN World Food Program in Bolivia. In this position he observed many livelihoods affected and even destroyed by erratic weather shifts as a result of climate change. Carlos believed technology could be of assistance in these kinds of situations. He and his colleagues began developing a concept for a technology capable of interpreting incoming data and historic patterns to predict incoming natural disasters much sooner. Giving people more time to prepare for a disaster is a huge accomplishment.

    Next, Khuram asks Carlos to talk a little bit about MIT Solve, an initiative at MIT with the mission to solve the world’s greatest challenges. Every year, they launch a specific challenge in four different challenges: health, learning, sustainability, and economic prosperity. The solutions are selected from all over the world by a curated board of thought leaders, NGOs, and nonprofits. Solve’s role is to broker relationships and to amplify the impact by putting the ideas out into the world. Due to the excess of great solution ideas, the process is quite selective. In addition, Solve provides funding for each team as well as incentive prizes. Carlos describes the increased sense of urgency induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes that real solutions are solved in small increments over time. Adam then asks if there is room for innovation to be imported into the U.S. Carlos says that ingenuity is everywhere, but opportunity is scarce. It’s understandable for people and businesses to feel hesitant to change their practices to be more ethical when their livelihoods are at stake. Investment capital is so heavily concentrated within a few American cities that it seems like the rest of the country is often left to fend for themselves. Solve has launched a challenge that will focus on solving pathways to employment in the U.S.

    Connect with Carlos Centeno and learn more about MIT Solve.
    Learn more about Khuram Zaman and connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
    Learn more about Adam Motiwala and connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.
    Access Campfire podcast videos on YouTube.
    Connect with Fifth Tribe on Facebook for more on the business and Campfire podcast!

    0:51 - Welcomes Carlos
    2:35 - Carlos’s work at the World Food Program
    8:23 - Carlos becomes involved with MIT
    10:00 - What is MIT Solve?
    16:00 - Insight into some of the ideas facilitated by MIT Solve
    19:22 - How has COVID-19 affected entrepreneurship?
    22:30 - How does the concept of community translate overseas?
    24:30 - Global response to COVID
    27:25 - Are there opportunities for ideas to be imported in the U.S.?
    32:50 - Elements of an innovation ecosystem
    37:25 - The programs at MIT Solve
    40:45 - How do people abroad hear about MIT Solve
    44:10 - Carlos’s advice and closing words

    • 47 min
    Chris Wink (CEO, Technical.ly) - It Takes A Village to Raise A Startup

    Chris Wink (CEO, Technical.ly) - It Takes A Village to Raise A Startup

    In this episode, Khuram sits down with Christopher Wink, the CEO of Technical.ly—a publication that covers local tech and startups. The two talk about various issues surrounding recessions, the COVID pandemic, entrepreneurship, the importance of community, and all of the surrounding challenges. Khuram appreciates Christopher’s presence on Twitter concerning his empathy for those seeking to use technology for good and seeks to learn more about the philosophies underlying his work.

    The conversation gets started with a simple summary of what technical.ly is all about and how they focus on community building and economic change. Where did Chris’s desire for this begin? Chris provides a brief reflection on the startup story from the 2008 recession and journey with a few friends. He shares about their common desire for information needs to be met in a local sense. Don’t miss hearing about his experiences with Joe Biden!

    Khuram shifts their discussion to innovation and growth in micro-systems and how technical.ly helps to promote compelling entrepreneurship stories that motivate more people to stick with it. Chris shares about his own entrepreneurial journey, as it began in the midst of a chaotic industry and how the first years felt like wandering in a wilderness. Find out how he dealt with the high levels of uncertainty, psychologically. Chris sheds light on the importance of not only learning about the founders’ journeys, but also the sacrifices that early employees make for startups. Additionally, he highlights the importance of intellectual honesty—check out the book he mentions: The Messy Middle.

    Is entrepreneurship increasing in America? Chris addresses the myth of entrepreneurship and decades of decline. Find out how general corporate consolidation and rising household debt (tied to health insurance), impact these statistics.

    Take a little break and hear about Christopher’s journey as a new father and how the first weeks of fatherhood are the hardest. Chris shares about the stress of balancing a child, COVID, running a business, and politics. There is not a playbook for the circumstances being faced today! Khuram addresses the importance of a human-centered design approach to leadership and how COVID is exposing things, but it is also resulting in great advancements. The two talk about Zoom meetings and the productivity game in working to “get your life back”.

    Hear about the pressures and disruptions Chris’s company has been under and how they’ve handled everything. While the pandemic shock was very administrative for their company, the challenges of remote working became personal for employees. Chris talks about the lesson in flexibility and how they worked to shift with the health, economic, and political shocks underwent.

    Learn how Technical.ly generates revenue through live events, underwritten reporting, and talent services—employer brand marketing. Chris provides insight into the importance of racial justice for both innovation and economic value. Listen to his take on the gross misrepresentations of economic growth concerning moral failure and economic failures.

    This episode wraps up with looking at the future for Technical.ly. While they’ve been officially “publishing” for over 10 years, Chris says that the first 7 years don’t count. He shares their vision for depth and the desire to both tighten and expand their model. Geographic expansion in grow-ing the community is crucial to their valuable work in connecting professionals with job opportunities!

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    Time Stamps:
    0:35 - Host Khuram Zaman welcomes Christopher Wink
    2:02 - Learn what technical.ly is about
    3:36 - Where did Chris’s desire for this start?
    8:39 - Innovation and growth in micro-systems
    9:31 - Chris’s entrepreneurial journey
    11:06 - Early employees and the founder journey
    16:58 - Is entrepreneurship increasing in America?
    22:22 - Christopher’s journey as a new father

    • 58 min
    Julie Lenzer (Chief Innovation Officer, UMD) - From Epic Games to Epic Innovation

    Julie Lenzer (Chief Innovation Officer, UMD) - From Epic Games to Epic Innovation

    On this episode of Campfire – The Impact and Innovation Podcast, host Khuram Zaman of Fifth Tribe is joined by the first Chief Innovation Officer of Maryland University, Julie Lenzer. Listen as he invites her to share her expertise and experience with innovation and entrepreneurship. She takes the time to share her views on the importance of cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship in students along with sharing some of the programs she has helped set in place to do just that.

    At the beginning of the episode, Khuram invites Julie to share about her job as Chief Innovation Officer. She explains the importance of this role in revolutionizing the way students are introduced to innovation and entrepreneurship. This is done by bringing entrepreneurship programs to students and offering them internships to receive additional experience. She goes on to share how the University of Maryland has placed a big emphasis on cultivating these two aspects through research and economic development. Along with this, Julie shares her job in connecting students and their ideas with great resources. Some resources she mentions include Fearless Ideas Campaign, MAVRIC, and TechPort.

    Next, Khuram and Julie talk about some of the other organizations and programs she has been able to be a part of. These include the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, and Startup America Partnership. Julie shares about her involvement in each of these and how they all aim to support innovators and entrepreneurs by providing grants, realizing their potential, helping market their ideas, providing resources, and connecting community-based resources with a community of entrepreneurs. She believes that America is moving towards a more supportive view of innovation and entrepreneurship, however, that a better focus on inclusion is needed. Everyone should be given the same opportunities to be innovative and create new ideas.

    The conversation moves on to Khuram asking Julie to give advice to someone interested in entrepreneurship. She begins by encouraging those interested in this field to start talking about their ideas. It is important to learn how to fail fast, get back up, and find new ideas. Always be looking for solutions to problems around you and how to make things better. She takes some time to answer questions about the future of entrepreneurship programs and cultural change in this field. The podcast concludes with Julie expressing her hope for the future of universities in rethinking innovation and using it in ways to confront the pandemic.

    To learn more about entrepreneurship and to find resources, visit innovate.udm.edu.
    Follow Julie Lenzer on Twitter and LinkedIn.
    Visit Julie’s Blog here.
    Learn more about Khuram Zaman and connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
    Access Campfire podcast videos on YouTube.
    Connect with Fifth Tribe on Facebook for more on the business and Campfire podcast!

    0:04- The host Introduces the podcast and guest Julie Lenzer
    0:37- Host welcomes Julie and asks her to share about her role as Chief Innovation Officer
    2:37- Julie shares about the importance of innovation in universities
    6:20- Different programs that encourage and fund student patents
    9:00- Julie shares about MAVRIC and TechPort
    11:11- Julie shares about her role at the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    15:18- Julie talks about the programs offered at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship
    19:05- The Host asks Julie to share about the Startup project and bus tour
    21:03- The host asks Julie how she would grade America’s innovation and entrepreneurship
    23:00- Julie gives advice to students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship
    25:41- Julie answers questions from students on the future of innovation and cultural changes
    28:45- Julie shares some of the challenges she has faced and how she has overcome them
    32:30- Julie’s role as Chief Innovation Officer in helping

    • 37 min
    Christy Wyskiel (Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures) - A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

    Christy Wyskiel (Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures) - A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

    In this episode, guest Christy Wyskiel is invited on to speak about her role in bringing new technology to businesses at Johns Hopkins and the surrounding Baltimore area. Christy provides a brief personal background and talks about how she is an investor and entrepreneur at heart. Leaving her formal investing career behind to start her current role, Christy was captured by her spirit for entrepreneurship and company building, and the opportunity to see incredible new technologies come to market.

    Khuram gets the conversation rolling by asking about the ecosystem of companies in Baltimore. Learn about the barriers that led to an infrastructure that lacked the necessary connections, investors, and networks. Why did this infrastructure exist in the Baltimore area? Christy discusses the paper she wrote concerning this very issue and how that launched her career. Christ demystifies the technology transfer of how ground-breaking research can be productized and commercialized. Learn about the 1980 federal laws that served to encourage university research and actual productization.

    Where do you go to meet people like Christy, and to move on to the next steps? Christy shares about their “secret sauce” at Johns Hopkins! Additionally, learn about the National Science Foundation’s i-Corps program that offers great mentorship and training for individuals.

    Khuram dives into a series of various questions for Christy regarding patents, how research becomes a business, the finances behind the innovations, the ins and outs of start-ups, and the various assistance programs out there. Don’t miss out on the outstanding strides and dramatic changes in these ventures that Johns Hopkins has made in the recent years! More and more companies are not only starting up in Baltimore, but they are staying there for the long-haul.

    Christy shares about the Fast Forward initiative as a place for companies to locate and stay in the area—a space for shared resources and innovation. Building the Baltimore ecosystem with biotech companies is Christy’s dream. Pulling mentors and investors from around the area, the “Maryland Innovation Initiative” also helped to address the gap needing to be filled for innovation to happen. Find out more on “translational funding”.

    Christy also shares about the other institutions she is involved in, such as the “Social Innovations Lab”—an initiative for the missions driven, not for profit startups. Learn the story of the “Clear Mask” mission-driven start up that has recently taken off. With the technology ventures for both student and faculty programs, there are resources available to everyone in the ecosystem.

    What’s been happening during COVID and how is Christy’s class on entrepreneurial finance going? Listen in as Christy shares the ins-and-outs of this season during the pandemic and the momentum that is still raging on.

    The episode wraps up with envisioning the future of biotech. Christy shares the importance of marrying the ideas of where the world is going, with the here and now. She provides resources on how to find the great ideas and all the unlicensed products being produced at Johns Hopkins. Join Christy and be part of her community with the momentum that’s rolling!

    Connect with Christy on LinkedIn and Twitter.
    Learn more about the Social Innovations Lab
    Check out more about the startups at Johns Hopkins—use Tech Finder for the unlicensed products
    Find out more on Johns Hopkins University and their Fast Forward program
    Learn more about the NSF’s i-Corps program
    Access Campfire podcast videos on YouTube.

    0:45 - Welcomes Christy
    0:59 - Christy’s background and role
    3:15 - The ecosystem of companies in Baltimore
    4:44 - Why the barriers and why a lack infrastructure in this area?
    7:30 - Demystifying the technology transfer
    12:14 - Their “secret sauce”
    14:45 - National Science Foundation’s program: i-Corps
    16:17 - Questions about paten

    • 48 min
    Dawn Myers - The $87B Business of Black Beauty

    Dawn Myers - The $87B Business of Black Beauty

    In this episode, we talk about the the challenges and opportunities of being a Black Founder and Funder. Dawn Myers is the CEO of The Most - which makes hair styling tools for Black women - and the Executive Director of the Vinetta Project DC Chapter. Her company is currently participating in the Sephora Accelerator and recently won the Women's Fast Pitch regional competition.

    • 1 hr 3 min

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