How To Save Cincinnati

Okay, I don't know how to save Cincinnati. I did try to compose something more coherent, but after wasting a lot of time just staring, I think I'll just try a list.

1) John Fox's editorial in last week's Citybeat caught my eye. In it, he wonders why the corporate powers-that-be have never sought to sponsor Midpoint Music Festival but fall all over themselves to get behind the Bengals, when arguably MPMF in many ways is a more important event for the city than the Bengals have ever been in recent times, despite their success. He referred to an old CityBeat article on the Creative Class with this quote: "And here's the kicker -- there isn't a density of high-tech workers in a place without a thriving music scene."

2) Why do people move to a city? Jobs? Culture? Friends? Family? Reputation? There are people who move to California because they love to tell people that they live in California. There are people who move to New York City for the same reason. But there are people who move to California because they love the weather. There are people who move to New York because they love walking to the store and riding the bus and taking the subway to see a play and so on. There are people from Cincinnati who think Cincinnati is nothing, and move to Chicago. There are people from Grayson County, KY, who think Grayson County is nothing, and move to Cincinnati to live in a great city. I don't know of anyone who moved to, say, St. Louis because they didn't like it in Cincinnati.

3) I read this article a long time ago about how to be Silicon Valley. He claims that the two main requirements to duplicate the Valley are nerds and rich people. Pittsburgh has lots of nerds, but no rich people. Hence you don't hear about the next Google coming from the Steel City. The same applies to Miami, which has lots of rich people, but no nerds. In considering things like personality, creativity, and youthfulness of a city, I like the following passage:

...Most good startup ideas seem a little crazy; if they were obviously good ideas, someone would have done them already.

That's the connection between technology and liberalism. Without exception the high-tech cities in the US are also the most liberal. But it's not because liberals are smarter that this is so. It's because liberal cities tolerate odd ideas, and smart people by definition have odd ideas.

Conversely, a town that gets praised for being "solid" or representing "traditional values" may be a fine place to live, but it's never going to succeed as a startup hub.
Does that last paragraph sound familiar? Does it sounds like a description that has ever been applied to Cincinnati?

4) If Zipscene is successful, it will have been in the face of the extraordinary limitations of where Zipscene started. Namely, Cincinnati. I love this town, but this is no place to start a internet-type startup along the lines of Google, or Facebook. One of the reasons I joined Zipscene was the idea of being a part of the first real consumer internet success in this city. I cannot think of anything else that comes close. (That's not true. would probably have been successful back in the 90's were it not acquired by eBay early on. There's also and (before it was acquired by Intelliseek) with varying degrees of success, but have you heard of them?)

5) Now, I love this town. But Larry Gross is right in this week's CityBeat when he says, "We have some very nice people here, but there is a tenseness -- some kind of a vibe that covers this city." I know this vibe. I've emanated it myself, I'm sure. It's the same vibe as, "Ohmigod, you're a stranger, can't talk to you." In Cincinnati, family is important. So is working hard, shutting up, and doing what you're supposed to do. It's why clubs like Club Clau and Bang get so much guff. It's why people take comfort in things that have been the same and familiar for so long, and why people get upset when the Fountain gets moved 30 ft. to the north. It's why the most successful businesses here are still in manufacturing, consumer goods, and insurance, despite the best efforts of Pill Hill and the likes of Zipscene. It's why the man with the most hits in baseball, who for 20 years worked hard, shut up, and did what he was supposed to do, can do no wrong in this city. This is why Cincinnati loves Pete Rose, and always will.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gerard - thanks for the mention of both Up4Sale and SparkPeople. I was one of two original founders of Up4Sale and am the founder/ceo of SparkPeople.

I started SparkPeople to help millions of people reach their goals - 7 years later it's exciting to see that this is very realistic now - largely because of the great team of people we have in Cincinnati working on our 4 sites.

I'm definitely rooting for Cincinnati and would love for SparkPeople to become a success story for the city. Good luck to you and the Zipscene team as well!

Here's an update on SparkPeople if you are interested:

SparkPeople is just about ready to hit the radar (not Google or Facebook big of course, but we'll take it) - we now get 2 million monthly uniques, almost 6 million monthly visits, and 70 million plus page views. Comscore shows that SparkPeople is one of the top 5 health-related sites based on page views. The site is so sticky because people come back so much.

Also, BusinessWeek readers just voted SparkPeople the best health site for the second year in a row ahead of WebMD and a bunch of others. Our members left such great feedback, that we were the only site interviewed for the story:

Good luck to us both!


hellogerard said...

Hey Chris.

Great news about SparkPeople. It's amazing that you've taken something from nothing, to something that's lasted 7 years. My hope is that people will associate SparkPeople (and Zipscene) with Cincinnati one day, like Amazon and Microsoft is associated with Seattle (well, to tech people anyway).

Keep up the growth at SparkPeople. Good luck to us both indeed.