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Thursday, November 17 – Redding, CA – When 1st District State Senator Ted Gaines visited the Shasta Venture Hub recently, he found himself “very impressed with the sophistication and collaboration in the community.” He explained, “If you’re a new startup you can get help from angel investors, and you can access the necessary skills to start your business – all under the same roof and all at an affordable price.” He believes that the efforts of the Shasta Economic Development Corporation, in association with the Chamber to help startups flourish, could provide an “opportunity to see good-paying jobs in the Redding area, which has seen setbacks as logging has reduced over the decades.”
He also referred to Cloud Wise Academy, which is also located in the Shasta Venture Hub, as a “very innovative idea. It’s an opportunity to give skill sets to locals to transform their careers, and allow them access to a whole new world. They can start businesses with their new knowledge and skills, and hopefully hire even more people.”
An alternative to Silicon Valley
Senator Gaines represents the most rural district in California. Recently, rural areas have struggled with changes brought in part by the technology that has made globalization possible – the Internet. Yet Senator Gaines sees the Internet as the key to rural salvation as well. “A whole new world has opened up for people all over the nation, but especially for those in rural areas,” he says. “These areas can now offer an alternative to Silicon Valley.”
“Silicon Valley is a tech hub,” the Senator continues. “It has all the ingredients for creating new startup companies: The knowledge, the capital, and the geographic location. These are huge advantages. But the people who have been in Silicon Valley are starting to look at areas where they can actually afford to buy a house, where they can have a little slower lifestyle and less traffic, and where they can raise a family. That’s Redding.”
Senator Gaines is not just an elected official – he is also the owner of an independent insurance agency. He knows full well the steps business owners need to take to adapt to changes in technology. “We’ve seen that the Internet is now an interactive version of the Yellow Pages,” he explains. “If we want to communicate with individuals who are looking for insurance, we not only need to have a website, but we need to make that website friendly to customers. Last year we made our site mobile-friendly, and we did search engine optimization. The phone started ringing! It’s really amazing what you can do with the right tools.”
Business is not the enemy
As a staunch fiscal conservative, Senator Gaines maintains that it is the responsibility of business owners, not the government, to grow the economy in a community. “If I own a business in Redding, it is to my advantage to make sure we are creating jobs, making the economy as a whole grow, and bringing in an infusion of youth. That is the next generation that’s going to bolster the economy locally.”
The responsibility of elected officials, he holds, is to “get out of the way.” As a member of the state legislature and a business owner, he admits he has been frustrated by the legal red tape in California. “We put up barriers that make things a lot more difficult,” he remarks. “We’ve got small businesses who are now going to have to be looking at increasing this minimum wage every year until it gets up to 15 dollars an hour. Are they going to be robust enough that they can sustain that hit on their bottom line? You can also look at the amount of litigation that occurs in California. That is another expense, another cost, another barrier to entry for small businesses.”
“Not to mention the regulatory environment,” he adds. “Not to mention the very high taxes. I try to remain ever vigilant on the issue of keeping taxes as low as possible in the state of California.”
“Business is not the enemy,” Senator Gaines concludes. “Business is the driver of the economy. It’s what fills the coffers. It’s what fills the treasury so government services can be provided. We want a government that works side-by-side with business. Every day I fight for the rights of small businesses, and every day they’re being diminished. It’s been a real struggle.”
Pockets of optimism
Regardless of these obstacles, Senator Gaines is highly optimistic about some areas of the state. “There are pockets of optimism in rural California, because I think the local government ‘gets it.’ They can provide incentive packages, they can regulate in such a way that it’s easier for a start-up business to get going. They can provide micro-loans for new businesses. There’s a lot of opportunity in places like Redding. And we have a huge market here! While it’s difficult to do business in California, we have a huge market to sell to.”
Shasta County, in his estimation, also has unique advantages in its journey to become a powerful, competitive tech hub. “Shasta County is a beautiful area,” he says, “with the crystal-clear Sacramento River running through it. Great agriculture, attractive rural flavor. And it has the I-5 Corridor right here! The infrastructure is here to easily transport materials. It’s got an airport. A lot of successful folks from Silicon Valley have second homes in my district.”
Overall, Senator Gaines is looking forward to the future of areas like Shasta County. “We have to remain ever-vigilant about the cost of doing business in California. But there’s a lot of opportunity there for growth and opportunity for small technology startups that began as just an idea to flourish and transform the community. It’s really exciting.”
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Cloud Wise Academy was founded in 2016 to teach high-demand technology skills. The Academy works closely with businesses in the area to make sure that the courses teach skills that companies are hiring for. Cloud Wise Academy is also related to Project Hometown, which helps Shasta County businesses sell their products online, and the Cornerstone Marketing Center, which helps businesses diagnose and resolve their web marketing conundrums. www.cloudwiseacademy.com
Cloud Wise Academy
4300 Caterpillar Road
Redding, CA 96003
Joe Mckenna, CEO, Cloud Wise Academy
Yet another Cloud Wise Academy student has landed a web development job with a small local tech firm. Chris Webber was a former gunsmith, Sprint car driver, and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman with the Navy. He made a perfectly successful transition from the Navy back into civilian life, but had recently run into a number of unrelated misfortunes in his life and was having a difficult time coping. “I won’t go into the situation I was in then, but Cloud Wise Academy gave me a way out of it,” he says. “Six months ago things looked very grim, very rough.”
After taking Cloud Wise Academy’s first two courses, Chris has gotten back on his feet both literally and figuratively, ditching a wheelchair for a cane as a bad back injury started to heal. The instructor of the second course, Zach Arnold, called Chris the previous week and asked him to interview for a development job.
“We’re going to be working on Abistumvoll.com in association with Bethel Ministries,” Chris explains. “She’s a pretty high-profile speaker who delivers speeches all over the country.”
Chris does not yet know exactly what he will be doing in his new position, which will begin in one or two weeks. He does anticipate that it will be a learning curve, however, as he rapidly picks up new web development skills. “Zach basically said the reason he picked me was that he liked the questions I asked,” recalls Chris. “He said because of that, I would learn faster.”
“It seems like a very good atmosphere to be entering,” Chris remarks. “Everyone is collaborating together towards a common goal. The general attitude from the people I’ve talked to makes me think it’s going to be really fun.”
Chris’ Ambitions: Where this web development job may lead
As of now, Chris has great aspirations for the future. “I fully plan to start my own web design company eventually,” he says. “That’s why I’ve been excited to get into business with Zach; he’s been doing this for so long.” Also, while he felt confident that he would eventually find a job in web development, he didn’t expect that his instructor would simply call him with an opportunity. “I was really happy about it,” he laughs.
Chris also plans to continue taking Cloud Wise Academy classes saying, “I intend to squeeze into every class I can.” In particular he is excited for the upcoming iOS development class. “I have a friend who works for a company like Mattel that makes board games for kids. So I’m excited for the iOS class because one day we want to get together and work on a great idea we had for a table and phone game. I’d probably be the developer on that. I don’t care if it doesn’t make a million dollars, it’s just going to be awesome to be able to make it.”
Indeed, Chris is positively buzzing with ideas about what he’ll do with his talent for web development. He has always had a passion for popular culture, be it video games, tabletop games, or anime. Learning web development will expand his opportunities to pursue this passion. He himself has been surprised and pleased at how well he’s taken to web development. “Landing on something that I feel I’m good at and that I enjoy doing was one in a million to me,” he says. “Right now, the future looks awesome. I’m very excited about the future.”
As for Zach Arnold, he is “really excited to have Chris on the team,” saying that “He was an exceptional student in class, and differentiated himself by continually going past the project description and asking challenging questions of the instructor. This let me know that he was hungry to learn more about web development.”
Cloud Wise Academy is a local coding school dedicated to teaching the technology skills that businesses need. Its next Websites for Beginners course begins January 4th, 2017 and will last for six weeks. Classes are held Mondays and Wednesdays in the evening, from 6-9 PM for the convenience of those with jobs and families. Classes are held at the Shasta Venture Hub building at 4300 Caterpillar Road in Redding, in the Cloud Wise Academy Classroom. The start date for the upcoming iOS class will be announced soon. More details can be found at https://www.cloudwiseacademy.com/.
To read Chris Webber’s student profile, click here.
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Cloud Wise Academy was founded in 2016 to teach high-demand technology skills. The Academy works closely with businesses in the area to make sure that the courses teach skills that companies are hiring for. A sister company to Cloud Wise Academy is 24-Hour Cloud Support, which helps company managers solve web, cloud, and e-commerce problems, on-demand. www.cloudwiseacademy.com
Cloud Wise Academy
4300 Caterpillar Road
Redding, CA 96003
Joe Mckenna, CEO
October 25th, 2016 – Last Friday, approximately sixty entrepreneurs of all ages filed into the Shasta Venture Hub on Caterpillar road, each committed to a new idea. By the end of the weekend, every one of them would be a part of a brand new startup. This high-energy, passion-filled experience is called Startup Weekend.
Joshua Johnson, a co-founder of multiple successful companies and a Startup Weekend facilitator, called the event “an immersive startup experience that’s all about action. It’s all about doing rather than about lectures and workshops. The goal is to create an environment that accelerates that learning process for them. They’re learning what it’s like to be part of a startup. They use the same tools and processes and experience the same hard questions from mentors that they would go through if they were in any other business environment. But they’re doing it in three days.”
Joshua was greatly encouraged by the way Startup Weekend developed this year. “We had 32 ideas presented,” he said. “Half the people who were here pitched an idea! Last year, we had to really encourage people to get in line to pitch. This year, we had a line extending almost out the door.”
The process of Startup Weekend works like this: On Friday, everyone who has an idea for a startup pitches their ideas in front of all the coaches and all of the other participants. Everyone present votes on their top three favorite ideas. In the end, only the founders of the top ten companies get to choose teams. Everyone then joins a group and forms a mock company – working to launch a demo at the end of the fifty-four hour event. “It’s really intense,” remarked Joshua.
The participants: A universe of ideas at Startup Weekend
The participants at Startup Weekend were shockingly diverse. Men and women, of many different ethnicities and backgrounds, dedicated to an array of hugely different ideas. The participants varied greatly in age, ranging from pre-teens into their 70s.
One group created an app called Swap, designed to replace the business card. Another group worked to create a form of therapeutic crib for premature babies called the Mara-pouch. Yet another group, founded by a 19-year-old, was called Redemption Clothing. Their idea was to create T-shirts for charity, each one specifically calling people to help one homeless individual per shirt, with a portion of the proceeds going to that individual.
As the participants worked, many remarked on the incredible energy at the event. “It feels like we haven’t been here that long,” said Elizabeth Fannin, part of the Swap team, on Saturday after an extremely late night of work. Immediately, the founder of that team, Joe Odell, jumped in to explain the team’s idea. “We’re trying to kill the business card,” he announced. “Someone hands you their business card, what do you do with it? You enter the info on your phone, you upload it to your database. Why do we have to do that? Why can’t we just hit a button and have the info? That’s what Swap does.” As they worked, the team’s excitement was palpable.
The excitement was also personal for many teams. Chris Gratigny, founder of Third Parent, was inspired to build an app to help parents because of his kids. “I have four children under five,” he explained, “and I came up with this because it’s really easy to forget about consequences and rewards. It’s bedtime, you tell your kids ‘no screen time tomorrow.’ About noon the next day you realize, our kids have been in front of screens all day – we told them ‘no.’ Our app is designed to remind you.”
The creator of Mara pouch was a registered nurse who had spent many years taking care of premature infants, and is personally knowledgeable about how fragile these babies are and about how important it is to keep them immobilized to prevent brain bleeds. In fact, as she gave the final presentation of the Mara pouch on Sunday, she was moved almost to tears. “Some of these babies are about the size of a kitten,” she said.
Other ideas included an app that would help people find religious institutions in their areas; a personal organization app that allowed people to enlist the aid of their friends in keeping them responsible; an app called Epic Life, designed to help people find popular locations for outdoor adventures in their areas; and an online marketplace for creative projects done by children. It was this last startup, helmed by a thirteen-year-old, that ultimately took home first place.
On Sunday evening, after working through the weekend, each team revealed their demo in front of four judges experienced in the business world and in front of an audience of interested community members. These presentations were delivered under strict time constraints – most of them simply ended when a facilitator cut them off. After each presentation, the team members had to answer tough questions from the judges about their business models.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the great intensity, the participants all reported the experience to be extremely valuable. “I think it’s a great thing to do,” said Chris Gratigny. “I think there’s a stereotype you have to be technical to do this, but you learn so much more about building a business than anything else.” Elizabeth Fannin added, “If you haven’t come, come!”
Startup Weekend is a national event put on by Techstars. The Redding Startup Weekend was generously hosted and assisted by the Shasta Economic Development Corporation at the Venture Hub. The event occurs once a year, in the fall.
Tony Giovaniello talks Cloud Wise Academy: Creating a prosperous Shasta Area through technology training
Tony Giovaniello, president of the Shasta Economic Development Corporation, has been trying to solve a problem: many businesses cannot grow as rapidly as they’d like, due to developing talent gap. Traditional technology training methods are not turning out new additions to the workforce at a rate that meets the demand. This has prevented the local economy from growing as quickly as it could.
Enter Cloud Wise Academy. The academy, incubated by the Shasta EDC, offers six-week training courses aimed at teaching real-world skills and kickstarting technology careers for graduates. “The success of Cloud Wise Academy has been not only the ability to train students, but the ability to connect that training with jobs,” Tony says. “That has been a focus of the Academy from the start. As long as it continues to maintain that focus, I think it will continue to be successful.”
Already several students of the Cloud Wise Academy have found new jobs in technology, including this writer. As Tony says, the ramifications of its work are potentially massive, not just on an individual level, but for the community as a whole.
The search for technology training: the background of Cloud Wise Academy
The Shasta Economic Development Corporation, or Shasta EDC, is a public-private partnership funded by county of Shasta and the cities of Anderson, Shasta Lake, and Redding, as well as approximately 40 corporations. As Tony describes it, the goal of Shasta EDC is to “help grow the economy and create jobs specifically in manufacturing and technology. Our goal is to recruit, retain, and expand companies in the area. It’s also to help startups, especially in technology, emerge and create a new economy.”
For many years, the Shasta EDC has been trying to entice more businesses to come to the Shasta area, but the lack of a State University has raised some questions about the availability in our area. Tony explains, “When looking at many technology companies that exist right now, many are software as a service (SaaS) companies. Their biggest resource is human capital. They don’t have a lot of property plans and equipment. So, if there isn’t an abundance of human capital, there’s nothing holding them to the area, other than life style choice. If we want them to stay and grow in the area, we need to make sure they have a skilled workforce to draw upon.”
That spurred Shasta EDC to identify the opportunity for a high-velocity training platform. Cloud Wise Academy was born to serve this emerging need. It offers jobs-oriented training courses in web development and other technological fields. Since its first class, Websites for Beginners, started in July, the academy has been rapidly expanding its selection of courses, to WordPress classes for employees and even one-on-one SEO marketing workshops for business owners.
“We based the model on a very successful academy in Fresno called ‘Geek Wise Academy,’” recalls Tony. “It looked like a great program, but you can never depend on something that works well in one area working well in another. Every place is different. Cloud Wise Academy is an adapted version that works well for our area. And the initial indications are that it’s going to fulfill all the goals and objectives that we had.”
What does a prosperous Redding look like?
“A prosperous Shasta County, with a vibrant technological community, branded outside the area as a place with an abundance of skilled workers, is a powerful message! These talent gaps exist in many places. If we find a way to successfully fill those gaps, businesses that want to expand will relocate here.” Tony says, “Including companies that are not technology-based. A growth-oriented, vibrant, and creative startup community, is also attractive to traditional manufacturing businesses. They also need to inject technology into their businesses to grow their revenues and be more efficient.”
Furthermore, he points out, there’s no reason that Cloud Wise Academy should only limit itself to classes in technology. “Courses are being developed and offered for training in sales, project management, and program management. There are a whole host of opportunities that become available because the Cloud Wise Academy model is working. An availability of talented and experienced instructors makes this model sustainable.”
Though Cloud Wise Academy is still in its early stages, Tony is optimistic. “The skills taught and learned at the Academy are literally changing people’s lives. Some of the students needed a new path or new hope. Probably the most invigorating part of all of this is how much that has become a reality for the people attending Cloud Wise Academy courses. It’s energizing for a lot of reasons.”
Currently, graduates of the first Cloud Wise Academy course are delving into the second Cloud Wise module, Advanced Web Development–Learning the WordPress Ecosystem.
On October 12th, the second Websites for Beginners course starts. This is another six-week session of Cloud Wise Academy’s first course, taught by the same popular instructor, Nathan Noble. These courses take place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, for the convenience of those already working or taking care of a family. Classes are held at the Shasta Venture Hub, located at 4300 Caterpillar Road in Redding. Scholarships are available.
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Cloud Wise Academy
4300 Caterpillar Road
Redding, CA 96003
Joe Mckenna, CEO, Cloud Wise Academy
Shasta Venture Hub
Economic Development Corporation of Shasta County
4300 Caterpillar RoadRedding, CA 96003
Tony Giovaniello, President, Shasta EDC