NextGenWeb strives to bring you the latest innovators on the broadband networks. With that, we recently caught up with Robert Newkirk III who gave us a sneak peak at his project, Genius Federation. Genius Federation is an online community focused on elevating the participation of African Americans, Latinos, and women in entrepreneurial ventures. Learn more about Genius Federation, Robert’s inspiration, and how he’s embracing broadband below!
Tell NGW about Genius Federation.
GeniusFederation.com is a virtual on-line network that provides entrepreneurs a secured platform to collaborate, manage, and fund their innovations from concept to prototype. We focus on the creation and incubation of marketable innovations. These innovations have the potential to acquire angel and venture capital from the private and government sector. Our immediate goal is to increase the amount of competitive start-up companies created by underrepresented populations including African Americans, Latinos, and women. Students, faculty, and researchers from academia and the public sector are encouraged to think freely in a virtual environment that promotes the creation innovative business models and concepts. Ideas are then rendered through a proprietary pipeline with the intention of bringing them to a worldwide market. The Genius Federation promotes online collaboration and is heavily reliant on broadband technology. Our network will launch in January of 2010 (Spring Semester).
What is the inspiration for the project?
The inspiration for GF was born out of my own attempt to create a digital publishing company called Eyebok back in 2001. Ironically, Eyebok’s business model was based on the industry-wide impact broadband technology would have on the distribution of music, film, and print media. It was my inability to secure seed funding for Eyebok that led to the concept of Genius Federation. The notion of finding angel and venture capital for a start-up company is already a Herculean task, especially for a neophyte. Many times, bringing an idea to market has to do more with timing and execution rather than the quality of the product. At the time, the idea of a minority securing seed funding ($25,000–$100,000) for a technology-based company was not proven and therefore under-resourced. One of the core principles of the Genius Federation is to create an environment that encourages the free exchange of innovative ideas from under-represented demographics. I figured I was not the only person looking frantically for funding and resources, so why not make a community for that purpose? Genius Federation is a global campaign to raise awareness that opportunity exists for minority innovators.
What opportunities has technology opened up for entrepreneurship?
There is no time like the present to be an entrepreneur. Technology has enabled aspiring entrepreneurs to conduct granular research on all aspects of how their industry operates. Social Media – once considered a marginal platform for Generation X– is now coveted for its bootstrap marketing appeal. We all are a witness to the “Twitter Impact” and we can expect a continued surge in how corporate America interacts with its constituents. If you are an inventor with an idea that requires professional rendering, the Internet is a one-stop conduit to register your entity, patent or trademark your innovation, and create partnerships with licensing outlets to further monetize your invention. Also, third party blogs–both personal- and business-run–offer up-to-date advice for entrepreneurs seeking community feedback for Internet based entrepreneurial services. What would have taken two to three expensive business trips, reserves of personal capital, and months of networking a decade ago, is now accessible – broadband being a necessary component. I recently read an article stating that maternity leave is now being utilized as an incubation period for mothers to become entrepreneurs. Bottom line: There are no boundaries to how successful an entrepreneur can be in the age of the Internet. Broadband has deconstructed the barriers of entry for markets that were once considered out of reach for small business entrepreneurs. Broadband technology is leading the way for citizen-based industries.
How do you see broadband usage evolving among the college demographic?
Colleges and Universities are closing in on the tipping point for online (distance) learning curriculum. With the price of tuition hitting the glass ceiling, academia is now considering online strategies for supplemental revenue—not to mention the environmental implications of remote learning in this age of green-driven agendas. The student / instructor relationship is no longer linear and limited to the classroom. Instead, we are seeing a more fluid, dynamic interaction where classroom dialogue is now extended to Facebook groups and projects supported by Google Apps. Social media has become a required language for academia, if they intend on sustaining student enrollment. Students are now required by their colleges and universities to purchase a laptop with the expectation of staying connected to classroom curriculum and extracurricular events. Some of the more progressive schools like MIT have opened up their university home page to a group of student-body bloggers that publish their daily narrations of campus life. This allows online access for potential students and recruits to follow campus life. Stanford was one of the first major universities to utilize iTunes University allowing the public access to download free classroom lectures. Conventional institutions like Harvard Law School offer Second Life virtual classes where student avatars attend lectures and interact with classmates in a virtual world. What we are witnessing is an unprecedented amount of access to privately funded FREE curriculum – all of which requires a high-speed broadband connection.
What would you say to a student that doesn’t opt for broadband?
First I would ask what is prohibiting the student from accessing broadband – in short what are the underlying obstacles? Are we talking resources (financial) or apathy? Maybe broadband is not a proven priority to them. Many times students require additional classes and training to comprehend the significance of having a quality broadband connection – environment is everything. This is where social media plays a part for its role in communicating directly to the student in their language. Surveys like the GFi (Genius Federation Index) collect data on the behavioral patterns of students that utilize broadband in hopes of implementing programs aimed at increasing broadband usage. Also Genius Federation provides students and small business owners with a free seminar – TechTasters – for maximizing the use of web tools like Google Apps, Twitter, Ning, and Facebook for academic and Internet marketing. By utilizing broadband, students increase their visibility for acquiring post-graduate jobs and internships. For example, a recent article was posted on the emergence of (virtual internships) where students can intern for a company from remote locations via broadband by performing Internet-based research. Broadband is the front door to opportunity for any student seeking to gain an advantage in this highly competitive workforce.
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