COLUMBIA, SC — A live audience will select Columbias next great new idea by video vote tonight at the Carolina Coliseum. Ignite 2012 is the annual event that wraps an evening of networking, short speeches and dinner around the opportunity to launch a winning local innovation into a business -- born of the regions growing knowledge-based economy. Three finalists have emerged in tonights competition and the winning entry carries home a $5,000 prize.
I have been working a lot with local governments, including cities and counties throughout the Carolinas and Georgia.
When it comes to local government, Karl McCollester has sat through enough meetings to know what everybody who regularly attends council meetings know: there are two kinds of them.
Theres the regular boring council meeting where nobody shows up, and then theres that every-once-in-a-while council meeting where everybody shows up and theyre upset because they heard about what was going on and what council was trying to do, said McCollester.
But McCollester said he and his two partners, Mike Switzer and Matt Hudson, think there is a lot more going on at council and local board meetings that affect people --- often more so than they are aware --- so theyve created Voterheads, an interactive website designed to make local government more accessible.
Ouir goal is to make it easy for people to find out what is happening at their city, county and school board, McCollester said. We want to make interacting with, and finding out about whats happening in local government as easy as it is on Facebook to find out whats happening with your family.
Voterheads seeks to collect all the agenda items on council and school board dockets in an automated fashion, parse through them, and basically figure out what those items are about: school funding, code changes, zoning changes, etc., and to where do they pertain.
Voterheads can then take that information and compare it to each of their users, where they live and what their interests are. If for instance, nothing is going on at a county council meeting that pertains to a users address, but an agenda item that applies near or to the users address is on the city council agenda, the web site would notify the user.
Voterheads allows people to enter their street addresses on the web site and find research links that inform them in more detail about issues they may want to vote on before going to the polls, McCollester said.
People can also comment on the items to each other through the website and Voterheads also can direct their comments to local elected officials.
Using the web site is free to people and to local governments, McCollester said. That address is www.voterheads.com
Public Works of HeART
Im a philanthropist, but I dont have any money."
Going around the city, Will Bryan sees place after place he thinks would be so much more attractive if only a mural were there.
Bryan, 33, is the art director at Genesis Studio in Cayce.
He earned a graphic design degree from USC then stayed on to get his masters degree in mass communications, after playing wide receiver under former head football coach Lou Holtz, in which he endured two ACL surgeries in four years, as the team transformed from an 0-11 record to back-to-back victories in the Outback Bowl.
So, you wouldnt be surprised his head is filled with city murals, right?
Painting murals takes both time and talent, however, and time was Bryans nemesis in bringing his vision to life --- until a light bulb came on in his mind one day admiring the two large Gamecocks emblazoned on Williams Brice Stadium.
Anything that you can create on a computer, you can print out on that material, Bryan said, and then you heat it up and you can just melt it onto the wall. The cool thing about it as well is, you can heat it up and remove it off the wall if you want to.
That made a light bulb go off in his head, he said. In that case, I dont have to sit at a wall for 100 hours painting. Anything I can design on my computer, I can make into a large format mural that can be installed anywhere.
There is a cost to putting the murals up, though, so Bryan is betting that others in the area share his desire to see more artwork up in the city.
He decided to use social media to enlist people to purchase a square on each mural to defray the costs, then decided to build into the squares cost enough for a donation to a good cause or charity.
That way, youre beautifying the community, the mural becomes a way to create awareness of a need in the community, and then youre also turning around and writing your own big check and giving it to an organization that is helping people in the community.
It was just unbelievable being in a first class at new law school. Everybodys a risk-taer.
Having left good jobs in Boston and in Charlotte, Anthony Goldman, a Columbia resident and inventor, knows there is more to life than a buck.
An attorney originally from Newton, Massachusetts, a small town outside Boston, Goldman came to Columbia to attend USC. After graduation, he moved back to Boston and took a job downtown. After a couple of years, Goldman became antsy and said he felt stuck in his job. He phoned one of his former professors at USC, who encouraged him to go to graduate school and study economics.
Goldmans search for a suitable school led him to Arizona State University, where he got a scholarship and earned his masters degree in economics.
That achievement landed him a job in Charlotte, though while in Boston, Goldman had taken up running and biking in triathlons. In Arizona, that passion turned more exclusively to cycling, enabled by the deserts landscape and topography, he said.
Upon graduation, Goldman moved back to the East Coast and took up cycle racing while in Charlotte, ultimately joining a racing team there sponsored by Volkswagen.
While working his gig at Bank of America for a few years, again Goldman said he came to feel stuck in his job.
Goldmans family encouraged him to go to law school, he said, and three years later he was part of the first graduating class at the Charleston Law School.
My family has always been very supportive of whatever I do --- luckily, Goldman said. I couldnt imagine having done anything different in my life.
We didnt know if the school was going to be accredited, and if they werent, we couldnt take the bar exam, Goldman said. When you have $26,000 a year in expenses, thats a big risk.
Upon graduation, Goldman was offered a job at the Administrative Law Court in Columbia, where he still works.
I had a great job with Bank of America; I had a great job when I was living in Boston. And despite the money, that didnt stop me from just going after what I wanted to do.
Yet, winning the $5,000 Engenuity Ignite! Ideas Contest award that is available tonight would mean something special, he said. Goldlman went through 18 or more interactions to perfect his Koala Bottle, that now is widely available on store shelves in some Columbia stores.
I think --- money aside, and not just for me, but for my family and my friends, it would validate their support, Goldman said. That they werent betting on a horse race or a dog race. When you trust your instincts, everybody is always looking for some re-assurance, no matter how confident we are in something.
And I think this would really be the assurance that this can really (succeed) --- even though its been locally popular --- this would be the stamp of approval, Goldman said.