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Distinguished Speaker Series – Rod Stevens

Posted on December 8th, by robertorr in Entrepreneurship, Events, Future Office, Lean, New Haven, Policy, Prosperity. No Comments

Distinguished Speaker Series – Rod Stevens

Please Join Us 12/23/13 Noon for a Stimulating and Timely Talk by Rod Stevens:

A Hands-On, Do-It-Yourself Approach to Business and Economic Development for the Rest of Us. 

How we can use place-making and the passions and interests of the people already living here to create a living economy for the 21st Century. Making it local.

The lean economy. Solve local problems, locally, through distributed making that leverages local stranded assets and kickstarted rusty skills.


Distinguished Speaker Series

Monday, Dec 23, 2013, 12:00 Noon

The Bourse Coworking Loft

839 Chapel Street, 2nd Floor

New Haven, CT 06510

RSVP affirmatives to:

or RSVP on Meetup or Facebook

Speaker: Rod Stevens

Rod Stevens

Rod Stevens is an expert in business intelligence and strategy, specializing in planning for place-based ventures. He will contrast top-down, large-scale, flavor-of-the-month approaches to urban revitalization with bottoms-up, entrepreneurial businesses that are rebuilding the economies of their communities through the passions and distinctive skills of local residents.  He will profile a handful of companies that have combined craft and modern, computer-driven technology to become “economic gazelles” in their communities, blurring the lines between white-collar, blue-collar and technical jobs.  He’ll also cite several places around the U.S., including Berkeley, Culver City, Portland, Port Townsend and Asheville that have successfully grown economic clusters built both on long-standing industries and the modern renaissance of craft.  And finally, he’ll bring it on home to New Haven’s own prospects, both downtown and in the Fairhaven district, building on the recent “Mill River” report and what individuals can do to participate in these business changes.

With 25 years experience, Rod is the Principal at Spinnaker Strategies, a Real Estate and finance consulting firm in Bainbridge Island, WA. Rod graduated from Stanford University (BA in History) and from Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School of Business (M.B.A., General Management), where he was recognized as a Tuck Scholar for academic achievement.

Read related writings by Rod Stevens Here and Here.

Currently, start-ups are dominated by tech, for the most part coders writing apps for Smart Phones and Tablets. Business plans for such apps aim primarily to draw people navigating the internet to click ads, the main revenue source.

But there are alternative venues for start-ups. According to Nicco Mele’s The End of Big, venues can be found by mining local resources and former industries. Former industries may lay fallow, but they still hold spacious and sturdy quarters, expensive equipment and access to skills, for which business plans can shift their aim from clicking ads toward making things.

By leveraging cheap space, regenerated assets and recaptured skills, start-ups require almost no capital investment. Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding allow start-ups to combine diffuse but valuable assets and stranded skills to solve local problems, locally, through distributed making. Come hear more about this stimulating and timely topic.

Here are some lean examples of making it by leveraging local stranded assets and skills:

Oakland developer plans incubator for hardware startups

Sachiko Yoshitsugu

Intern-San Francisco Business Times

Crucible in Oakland, California

A Bay Area developer is working to create an incubator for hardware startups in West Oakland, a blighted, industrial neighborhood where the city hopes to boost jobs and investment.

Lightner Property Group plans to convert a former two-acre steel fabrication facility at 3250 Hollis St. into a shared machine shop with a large outdoor space and a brewery and restaurant component that might be run by Oakland-based Linden Street Brewery. The idea is to encourage innovation by setting up an affordable place for engineering professionals and early stage startups to share resources, collaborate and develop their products.

“There are so many players in the mix when you’re a manufacturer,” said Bill Lightner, CEO and President at San Francisco-based Lightner Property Group, which is calling the project Hollis Works. “They need to collaborate and find a place to work together, but the cost of maintaining a site is still very high.”

City officials are taking steps to encourage projects such as Hollis Works that help small businesses get off the ground as a way to spur investment and economic growth in neighborhoods such as West Oakland. The city’s relatively affordable rents, maker culture, large industrial space and existing manufacturing infrastructure make it an ideal place for hardware startups to find their place. (See related stories in our Nov. 29 print publication,Oakland Structures, about the city’s entrepreneur infrastructure.)

The project planners want to attract a mix of individuals and companies ranging from one up to 12 employees in fields such as small robotics or biotech. To get their ideas off the ground hardware startups need a place to store and work on projects with access to large and often expensive machinery. Many of these companies have been priced out of San Francisco where there is little space for shops.

Lightner is talking with Linden Street Brewery to lease space across from the shop. The brewery is expanding at its current facility and is looking for additional space for some of its equipment where it could also hold events.

“What excites me is the outdoor space between the buildings,” said Adam Lamoreaux, owner of Linden Street Brewery. “We do a lot of events and fundraisers in our parking lot right now. I like the idea of having a space where we could reach out to the community and wouldn’t be stepping on other people’s toes.”

City officials said the project is in line with the city’s economic development goals. West Oakland is a high priority area for new investment and ideal for this kind of project. The neighborhood’s vacant buildings provide opportunities for growth.

“This is the exact kind of business we want to grow in Oakland,” said Rachel Flynn, director of the Oakland Planning Department. “It spurs new investment when people are inventing things.”

Lightner Property Group filed a pre-application for the Hollis Works plan over the summer and said the goal is to open the project by the end of 2014.

“I think it’s smart,” said Jose Corona the CEO of Inner City Advisors, a consulting firm for small businesses.“If you get a bunch of small manufacturing companies together in one location with the services they all need, you can build economies of scale and collectively work together to get better pricing.”

Sachiko Yoshitsugu is an editorial intern at the San Francisco Business Times.

Another example of solving local problems, locally, through distributed making is auto manufacturing. Distributed making means that many, sometimes tens, sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands of small independent industries crowdsource into one product.
Local Motors is one of over 400 auto manufacturers, which have sprung up recently and of which you’ve probably never heard. They are a phenomena of the internet, which, as Nicco Mele argues in The End of Big, makes David the new Goliath. The internet’s ability to crowdsource is why local “making” might be more than possible. It’s already on us:

Local Motors Factory

Local Motors

The Local Motors approach is not mass manufacturing and selling. Its 3.0 approach is to have a light weight chassis upon which carbon-fiber bodies are placed. This work is done in “micro-factories,” which are to be located in communities across the country (thus, the name of the company): “All cars are assembled, tested for quality, and sold locally by a 20-person business unit at a facility with a 1/100th the capital of today’s auto plants.” Given that an auto plant can cost on the order of $1-billion, we’re guessing it might be significantly less than 1/100th.



Drive community engagement above all else. Ensure open dialogue and transparency with community members in order to facilitate innovation and empower the individual maker.


Engage and empower global communities of designers, engineers, fabricators and automotive enthusiasts to solve local problems, locally, through distributed making.


Foster open collaboration in order to drive faster, more cost-effective, more thorough product development to drive improved safety and quality.


Make transportation more sustainable globally by empowering maker profitability, defending and advancing the environment, and improving safety and well-being.


Strive to succeed in the face of failure; meet deadlines regardless of obstacles; exceed expectations in the design, development and distribution of critical tools, services and finished products.

Local Motors is an international community of enthusiasts, designers, engineers, fabricators and experts. They have 56 employees and over 35.8k community members, collaborating on 4.7k designs and 1.0k ideas across 344 projects.

Local Motors Cruiser

For example, one project, The Local Motors Cruiser, is a modern take on a classic bicycle. It was designed by a member of the Local Motors community, and the first prototypes were built in their Microfactory. It’s a product of true co-creation and vehicle innovation, and investors have the chance to own one of the first models available by taking part in the first-ever Local Motors-sponsored crowdfunding campaign.

Cruiser funding campaign (model for crowdfunding making projects):

Cruiser Funding Campaign

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