This post also appeared in The Tennessean, where Concept Technology has a bi-weekly feature in the Business section.

When Google Fiber announced it was coming to Nashville, nobody was surprised. Eager? Yes. Excited? Absolutely. But it’s hard to be surprised when the decision makes so much sense. Crowned by fiber, Nashville is irrefutably emerging as a great tech city. But even without Google’s blessing, Nashville’s been well on it’s way to becoming just that.

Within a matter of weeks after the Google announcement, StartupBus, which developed out of Silicon Valley and takes entrepreneurs, programmers and visionaries to Austin’s South by Southwest conference, publicized it was changing its path to Music City and the 36/86 conference. Why? “There’s something brewing there,” wrote Mitch Neff, StartupBus’ global director, in a blog post.

A central and culturally rich Southern city, Nashville’s deepest roots are in creative soil. This rising tech identity is no stranger to the city’s audacious entrepreneurs and risk-taking artists.

But there’s one thing that’s missing: top-tier tech talent.

According to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, there are 800-1,000 unfilled technology jobs in the region, and the need is only increasing. Credited by Forbes magazine as a top 10 city for creating IT jobs, Nashville will generate 7,100 new jobs by 2019, according to a Nashville labor market study.

And it’s not just software developers that are in high demand. Nashville needs behind-the-scenes engineers and infrastructure gurus. With all eyes on Nashville and lofty promises of potential, recruiting techies across the board must be a priority.

The stakes are high when you compete for rare tech talent with giants like Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, or Boston. But Nashville offers more than just job security. There’s an uncommon balance between city life and small town charm here. With an exploding food scene, flourishing creative neighborhoods, high-level educational institutions and a world-class medical environment, Nashville has plenty to offer, no matter your industry. Here are a couple of ways Nashville is working together to attract tech talent:

WorkIT Nashville

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce created WorkIT Nashville, an online resource for those seeking tech positions in the area. It’s more than a job board, it’s a lookbook of the Nashville lifestyle. It highlights the city’s incredible diversity and cool companies. Laying out the cost of living, the national music stage and Nashville’s family friendly options, WorkIT allows potential relocaters to imagine their life here, not just their job.Nashville_TechCity

Nashville Technology Council

The Nashville Technology Council focuses on developing homegrown tech talent. By working with local schools, the NTC introduces students to the enormous opportunities for tech careers and identifies learners with a natural aptitude for what it takes to be successful in tech.

The NTC has done an incredible job of creating community and nourishing the tech talent that already exists in Nashville. It provides educational opportunities for people of different backgrounds to get on the same page when it comes to IT. The events it sponsors facilitate discussion between departments in Nashville organizations, like marketing and IT, overcoming familiar communication issues and allowing for tech talent to be developed and understood. By working with existing companies, individuals and educational institutions, the NTC is creating a system that works and feeds itself.

Scout Staffing

As an owner of a tech company, I’ve been in the business of finding top talent for over a decade. Just last year, we launched Scout Staffing, an IT and entertainment staffing agency. We’ve learned that to hire the best people, the process needs to be thorough and take into consideration both personality and top-notch technical skills. As such, Scout Staffing helps Nashville companies find candidates from all over the country who mesh with their existing culture. Rather than hiring to fill an immediate need, recruiting should be an investment in the future of a company. It’s a longer process, and requires careful vetting, but, in the end, hires look more like teammates rather than Band-Aids.

As Nashville booms, one thing is certain: We must work together as a community to bring in new tech talent, while treasuring the inventive spirit that’s been here all along.

This post also appeared in The Tennessean, where Concept Technology has a bi-weekly feature in the Business section.

patent-trolls.jpgAs a country, we’ve seen a dramatic uptick in patent litigation over the past 10 years.

So it should be no surprise that we’ve also seen more and more complaints about “patent trolls” in our headlines. As companies spend massive amounts of corporate resources on patent troll litigation — money that could be spent on research and development — patent law remains very much in flux.

I recently asked Brian Iverson, an attorney with Bass Berry & Sims, a few questions about patent trolls to gain a greater understanding of the issue.

Here’s more of what I learned:

 

Who qualifies as a patent troll?

The term “patent troll” typically refers to companies that buy up large tracts of patent portfolios and make a business out of suing people. This is big business. Some of the biggest trolls in the country have billions of dollars in assets.

One is the best-known patent trolls is MPHJ Technologies, a non-practicing entity that contends its patent portfolio covers “a patent on scanning documents and sending them from the scanner to a computer through a network.” MPHJ Technologies has sent out thousands of “demand letters” to businesses claiming patent infringement and asking for about $1,000 per employee to license its technology. In another example, PersonalAudio is suing podcaster and comedian Adam Carolla, two other podcasters, Fox, CBS and NBC for infringing on is patent on “downloaded playlists.”

Under the broadest definition of a “non-practicing entity” described above, though, most technology household names (IBM, Microsoft, etc.) also would be considered patent trolls, as would most other companies that invest significant portions of their budgets into R&D.

Take, for example, Research in Motion, the company that manufactures BlackBerry. RIM has an extensive patent portfolio and it isn’t necessarily practicing all of its inventions. Does that mean a company like Apple could go out and infringe on any of the patents that RIM isn’t practicing? No.

In another example, take an individual inventor who has a great idea and doesn’t have the resources to market that idea as a product — patent law protects this inventor from anyone else who may have the resources and the desire to steal that idea. These practical examples of entities that do not practice their patented inventions give some context to the policy questions that are challenging our legislators in trying to find a solution to the patent troll problem.

 

Currently, where does the law stand on patent trolls?

In general, patents are a matter of federal law. Congress introduced a dozen or so different bills dealing with patents during its current session, the latest of which the Senate Judiciary Committee recently tabled. Though the vote has been taken off the calendar for now, much of the federal legislation deals with the need to plead patent infringement with greater specificity, reducing the cost of patent litigation, etc.

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