If Alligators Could Roar: Lessons from another AlligatorZone, where kids meet cool startups

August 10, 2014

The second Saturday of a new month at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library meant yet another session of AlligatorZone.  For those interested in upcoming sessions at various locations, here’s the link: AlligatorZone.eventbrite.com.   A few new things were attempted during this session, with mixed results.  Here are some of the early impressions as captured by volunteers moderating the session.

Is three a crowd, or is it company?

Based on feedback from kids and parents in the audience at previous sessions, the organizers limited it to showcasing just 2 entrepreneurs instead of 3.  This made the session a little more relaxed in its pace.  We wonder if it also made it a little less exciting.  Was it like watching golf versus watching football?  Did an extended life fail to leave the audience pining for more?  Audience members still lingered after the session to chat with the one entrepreneur who was able to stay back to finish all conversations.  In Silicon Valley, there’s going to be a pilot of AlligatorZone in 2 weeks (August 23rd) at the Sunnyvale Public Library, when we expect to have 3 entrepreneurs presenting to a bigger audience of families and kids and teenagers.  We’ll keep an eye on the outcomes and then make adjustments.  We have to strike a balance between the slow pace that gives enough time for an audience to absorb and understand new startups being presented, the sense of urgency with shorter presentations by more entrepreneurs, and the increased noise levels of a larger crowd which undeniably brings a compelling sense of energy and joy.

The power of story-telling without a bright screen

For reasons of poor coordination on our part, we did not even have the presenters’ company name, and logo on display on the flat screen in the backdrop.


Matt Rutkivitz, founder of OuterAction talks to kids and families at AlligatorZone on August 9, 2014.

The presenters showed up as story-tellers without props to help their effort.  As you will see in the video below, Matt Branton, Founder of SenderDefender later said it would have taken just 3 minutes to show his highly technical product, and that would have made it easier.  Come to think of it, one of those computers in the library lined up behind the audience could have been used to get on the Internet.  No one thought of it.  We were all focused on the entrepreneur’s story telling.  We may stick with that format.

Matt Branton, founder of SenderDefender speaks on camera after the session of AlligatorZone on August 9, 2014.

What happens when the camera is turned off

For this session of AlligatorZone, we decided not to record a video.  We found the presenters to be much more relaxed.  They could be themselves.  The conversations seemed more authentic.  Just like at a backyard barbecue in your neighborhood.  The audience was also focused on listening to the startup founders and not distracted with the urge to tweet or post anything on social media.  We are still unsure whether live-tweeting is a good thing or not for hyperlocal events such as AlligatorZone.  The young participant who hand-wrote her feedback, has recommended greater use of social media.  We however noticed more people showing up after reading about AlligatorZone in the local newspaper than through email campaigns via constant contact and twitter campaigns.  Twitter has accomplished more wide-spread awareness for AlligatorZone in places as far away Australia and the U.K.  However, at the hyperlocal level, the jury is still out on whether social media is effective in making parents want to bring their kids to the library to listen to startup entrepreneurs.


Kayla Hayes wrote this excellent story for the Bloomingdale Gazette, which was mentioned by one of the families who attended AlligatorZone.

Learning to be remembered, but not as an annoyance

The size of the audience was very small compared to over 50 people being present in the previous session.  We tried a few different things this time.  We sent one less email reminder to our existing mailing list of various program subscribers.  Parents who signed up did not show up, possibly because they decided to go shopping for school supplies.  Once inside the library, one parent was not able to find our session easily because there were no directional signs.  No giant poster.  Announcements were made on the library’s p.a. system, but we need to develop a script that the venue can use for these announcements.


Feedback on the back of a flyer from one of the teenage members of the audience.

Training our sights on something more enduring for the kids, with mentoring

As we start building a community of entrepreneurs who are willing to talk to kids and families who are willing to invest time and effort in bringing their kids to an AlligatorZone, it opens up a new teaching opportunity that we will explore — one where the entrepreneurs can serve as mentors to kids in the audience.  Before we get to that point, we are developing simple systems that any organization wishing to have an AlligatorZone in its community can simply plug in and play.  The mere thought of this educational potential of AlligatorZone is exciting and heart-warming indeed.


Matt Branton, founder of SenderDefender explains his highly technical ‘large-file encryption in email-attachments’ product to an audience of teens, kids and families, at AlligatorZone.

Dipping our toes in the waters of enriched educational programs

Next month, we are testing out a pilot at the Pinecrest Library of the Miami-Dade Public Library System where entrepreneurs will speak to children visiting the library for a field trip.  Creating self-sustaining learning opportunities in neighborhood libraries, for local schools, would be a worthwhile goal to pursue.

In his feedback video above, presenter Matt Rutkovitz, founder of OuterAction talks about how AlligatorZone is a two-way learning channel.

How can we make AlligatorZone’s message heard?  What if Alligators could roar?

Having completed the first three AlligatorZone sessions successfully, we have identified some of the areas we need to focus on.  Getting the local community to become aware that really busy entrepreneurs and startup founders (running a startup is a 24-hour non-stop endeavor) are taking the time to come and talk to their children is going to be our primary focus.  Our short-term goal is to find a way for the Alligator to roar so that parents and families hear about the AlligatorZone.

For your convenience, here are links to previous articles about AlligatorZone

Follow AlligatorZone on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AlligatorZone.  Join us for the next session of AlligatorZone.  Reservations are to be made at AlligatorZone.eventbrite.com.  AlligatorZone is one of several impact programs being designed at SiliconGlades.  If you know of startups that would make for interesting presenters to an audience of kids, teens and families, please send your suggestion to events [at] siliconglades [dot] com.

This guest post has been put together by contributing volunteers at SiliconGlades, the innovation and design firm that creates programs such as AlligatorZone for a community.

Entrepreneurs Experience Adrenalin Rush at AlligatorZone, Where Kids Meet Cool Startups

July 22, 2014

As we prepare for the 3rd session of AlligatorZone on August 9, 2014 at the Bloomingdale Regional Library, Valrico, Florida, we want to share the exciting ambiance at the AlligatorZone session.  We want to share some lessons learned, and some changes we are considering to the format as we fine-tune it further.

Let’s start off with some videos of the founders sharing their thoughts on the experience soon after the session concluded.

Here are some pictures of the event.

The AlligatorZone is held in a public library.  In the picture below the Innovation Studio is just starting to have visitors.  It’s a nice feeling to see familiar faces.  Repeat visitors in the audience indicates we are doing something right, providing something valuable to the audience.


It’s 10 a.m. on the Saturday of AlligatorZone.  We walk in to find some people already seated and all the startup entrepreneurs already present.  The show is scheduled to start at 10:15 a.m.  In the picture above, the presenting startups are testing their connections for the big screen.  We are thinking of doing away with the screen and the ubiquitous slide show, that we believe are impeding more free wheeling conversations between the startups and the kids in the audience.  The big screen is probably a distraction in this case.


By the time the session began, it was a packed house.


Here’s another view of the packed room.


More families joined us later because they had to drive an hour to get to the AlligatorZone.  See the kid in crutches?


No kidding!  These kids mean business!

Laura Doyle from the Hillsborough County Library Cooperative kindly shared comments from the audience members, gathered in the comment cards.  Read the excerpts below, edited for relevance.

  • “I feel like this is a pretty efficient way to spread the word about new businesses and I feel like this is very helpful for the presenters.”
  • “It was very interesting to learn about local entrepreneurs.”
  • “Better than I expected!
  • “It was useful.”
  • “Very educational. Excellent for adults and children.”
  • Suggestion: “Give more time for questions.”
  • “Awesome! Keep the entrepreneurial stuff coming!”

Based on the feedback in the videos and the comments from members of the audience, we are thinking of limiting each session to 2 presenters as was originally planned.  The third presenter was supposed to be on standby in our original plan.  Limiting it to 2 presenters might allow for more one-on-one time between audience members and the entrepreneurs.  We may need to revisit where the speakers stand and how they audience is seated.  The learning continues.  Thank you to everyone for their support – the library officials, the parents and families, the startups, the kids, and the media.  Look for coverage about AlligatorZone in the upcoming issue of The Bloomingdale Gazette.

If you know any startups that would be cool to present to kids, please let us know with an email sent to events [at] siliconglades [dot] com.  We have started to sign up entrepreneurs to present based on their availability, since we have started planning for regular sessions of AlligatorZone.

One more thing.  After a couple of changes, we think we have distilled what AlligatorZone is all about in its new tagline: Where Kids Meet Cool Startups!


For your convenience, here are links to previous articles about AlligatorZone

Follow AlligatorZone on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AlligatorZone.  Join us for the next session of AlligatorZone.  Reservations are to be made at AlligatorZone.eventbrite.com.  AlligatorZone is one of several impact programs being designed at SiliconGlades.

31 Tips for Founders of Startups Talking To Families and Kids at AlligatorZone

July 7, 2014

Last weekend we released several tweets with tips on what startup founders could do or expect, and get the most out of a shot at talking to parents and kids at an AlligatorZone.  These are based on observations and lessons learned in our inaugural session last month.  There’s an incredible amount of learning going on as we start running AlligatorZone sessions.  Our goal is to develop a set of guidelines and best practices as we continue down this path of bringing startups in front of families and kids for a community interaction of symbiotic enjoyment and benefit.  Here’s a listing of the recent flurry of tweets.

  1. Expect surprises. Last session a 6th grader asks “What analytics do you capture?”
  2. Linger for 1on1 chats post-session & get more ideas
  3. Talk little, then ask crowd for ideas and #listen
  4. It’s a chance to nudge a #mom to be a #mompreneur
  5. It’s an opportunity to inspire a kid or teenager
  6. You’re seen as a contributor to the local economy
  7. Silly dance video > Showing mugshot slide
  8. Wouldn’t hurt to offer families a tour of your lab
  9. Relax, Smile. Audience is out to help, not judge you
  10. Yr next employee/intern/distributor maybe in audience
  11. Traits that help — humility, vulnerability, patience
  12. Present to be likeable & the community reciprocates
  13. Don’t assume kids/teens learned tech concept in school
  14. When kids/teens ask questions, repeat for all to hear
  15. Avoid words ‘business model’; say Here’s how I make $
  16. Between real demo and deck, prefer demo
  17. Between demo & product, prefer audience trying product
  18. It’s teaching time; show kids how you solve a problem
  19. Learn from NYC street performers near EllisIslandFerry
  20. If it’s a physical product, bring samples
  21. Kids, teens are your future consumers; they’re always right!
  22. Practice in front of kids, not mirror.
  23. Explainer videos can’t convey #founder‘s passion
  24. When audience gives ideas, ask if they’d like to be kept posted
  25. When #teens in audience suggest a new market, consider hiring them as #interns
  26. Kids seeking dad’s iphone means you stopped #storytelling
  27. Slideshow can’t replace power of conversation
  28. If kids get it, #angel #investors will.
  29. Avoid saying “raised #seed money” or explain.
  30. Avoid responding to kid’s question with another question.
  31. Avoid words like #ideation.

Follow us on http://www.twitter.com/AlligatorZone for the latest.  Bookmark and sign up at http://AlligatorZone.eventbrite.com to reserve spots and to learn of new startups in your neighborhood.  If you wish to suggest a startup, send an email to events at siliconglades dot com.

Hope to see you at the Bloomingdale Regional Library in Valrico Florida this Saturday at 10:15 a.m.  We plan to be showcasing startups every 2nd Saturday of each month at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library in Valrico, Florida.  Look for us also in Jan Platt Library, in the near future.  We’ll also be in Sunnyvale Public Library on August 23, 2014 at 3 p.m.  Bring your children, nieces and nephews, parents and grand parents, and make it a community gathering to bring robust common-sense to startup founders, sharing perspectives that may never have occurred to them.

Fresh Perspectives Swamp Startup Founders in AlligatorZone

June 19, 2014

With a small splash, last Saturday morning, AlligatorZone got started in an elegant library that recently underwent a multi-million dollar expansion, tucked away in a beautiful neighborhood in Valrico, Florida, about 30 minutes east of downtown Tampa Bay.  Here is a pictorial report on the first ever AlligatorZone.


Chief Librarian Margaret Rials, of the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative (HCPLC.org) welcomes members of the community to the first ever AlligatorZone, as the first presenting entrepreneur Jess Rasemont of RasemontGardens.com, (what we describe as an organic-garden-as-a-service company) prepares for her presentation in the background.

About alligators and grass, rather AlligatorZone and Grassroots.

AlligatorZone is just another step in a fascinating journey of programming brought to the public library in a grassroots fashion – based on the need felt by the community.  First, there was the CoderDojo Tampa Bay Area which launched back in May 2013 with the help of selfless volunteers from the programming community to nurture the next generation of developers; the program grew within a year from one library location to 6 locations in 3 counties, serving about 300 parents every other week.  Effectively, each month 12 classes are held to teach kids to code.  The positive economic impact of this program will be experienced by the community within 5 to 10 years as these kids become teenagers and young contributors to the economy of the area.  It is the only educational program that we know of, where a parent sits alongside the child, sometimes even learning with the child.

With AlligatorZone, it was the community of entrepreneurs who have a genuine need for getting fresh perspectives from members of the community about their business – both, risks and opportunities that the entrepreneurs usually miss because they are too preoccupied with their original vision and mission, and dare not stray from.  However, as the presenting startups at the inaugural AlligatorZone realized, members of the audience provided them with suggestions on target markets whose needs they hadn’t considered, suggestions on advertising avenues they hadn’t considered, and some in the audience asked questions that helped the entrepreneurs rethink how they communicated their value proposition, their business model and their pricing models to the common member of the public.

How the Community Gathered Around the Entrepreneurs.

AlligatorZone’s debut session in Valrico, Florida featured three entrepreneurs, and the audience consisted of moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, working professionals from the fields of finance and marketing, teenagers, elementary school kids and other entrepreneurs.  Yes, an investor also showed up, listened and left impressed.


An engaged audience of members of the community hear out Jess Rasemont as she describes RasemontGarden.com.


Each startup received various forms of feedback and suggestions, even offers for help to promote their service through resources where the audience members enjoyed access.  Jess Rasemont is seen here talking to an audience member.


Pat Bhava of PikMyKid.com prepares to show an animated video to members of the community gathered at AlligatorZone on June 14, 2014 at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library in Valrico, Florida.


PikMyKid.com founders Pat and Chitra continue to obtain feedback from school teacher Lorien Mattiacci who was a member of the audience, and had driven close to an hour to be at AlligatorZone.


Travis Russi talked about StuffHub, his app for selling/buying through trusted personal contacts.


Travis Russ, creator of StuffHub chats after the AlligatorZone session with Alfred Urena, a technology marketing professional, who also volunteers as the lead mentor at New Tampa Regional Public Library CoderDojo teaching kids to code.

Birds and Alligators, of course

Here are some tweets from AlligatorZone that could give you a feel for the session.

Thanks to the incredible support of @TampaHillsLib team from behind the scenes with @alligatorzone @HillsboroughFL pic.twitter.com/8OyGDRZkgS

— AlligatorZone (@alligatorzone)

June 16, 2014

#teens in audience at @alligatorzone debut session offered valuable tips to #startups @tamphillslib @HillsboroughFL pic.twitter.com/yOwIsDM7cf

— SiliconGlades (@SiliconGlades)

June 15, 2014

The Fringe Benefits For Startups in the AlligatorZone

Among the unplanned benefits of presenting a startup at AlligatorZone turned out to be the visibility they enjoyed in the media and in web searches.  Pat Bhava of PikMyKid.com pointed us to the organic search results that were an outcome of their startup’s participation, by sending us this link: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=pikmykid&start=30

Alexandra Booth kindly took the time to write the story of AlligatorZone in the community newspaper Osprey Observer which we believe reaches 30,000 households in the vicinity of the library.

Building Best Practices for AlligatorZone

We are taking several of the lessons learned from the inaugural session of AlligatorZone and designing best practices for startups in AlligatorZone.  We have identified interesting startups to present at the next AlligatorZone of July 12, 2014 at the same location.  Sign up at http://AlligatorZone.eventbrite.com and stop by with your friends and family.  Show your kids how inspiring entrepreneurs in their own community are!  Follow AlligatorZone on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AlligatorZone.

Talking About Your Startup to Families and Kids at AlligatorZone: Be the Consummate Storyteller You Ought To Be

June 12, 2014

As we prepare for the debut session of AlligatorZone this Saturday (10:15 a.m. on June 14, 2014), one of the items on our checklist is to provide the invited startup founders with tips on presenting to kids and families who will be a part of the general public in the audience.


Margaret Rials, Chief Librarian at Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative helped us immensely in bringing the program to the library system and in planning the layout for the program at the Innovation Studio at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library, in Valrico, Florida, where AlligatorZone will make its debut at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, June 14, 2014.

As Chief Librarian Margaret Rials was saying earlier this week when inviting a roomful of children who were learning to code at the CoderDojo Tampa Bay Area along with their parents, this was going to be “the first AlligatorZone to be ever held (and she paused before adding) in the world”.  As far as we know, it is the first such program.  This makes it as exhilarating as getting ready for a gig during amateur night at the Improv Club in Ybor City.  Soon Sunnyvale Public Library in California will have a session of AlligatorZone (August 23, 2014, to be precise), by which time we will have three successful AlligatorZone sessions under our belt in Florida.  However, for now, we are going foward improv-style.

With no precedence, how does one design a list of tips for the presenters?  We drew parallels from different experiences.  My experience at a Great American Teach-in explaining a web-startup offering virtual trade shows to a class of 2nd graders and 4th graders really forced me to boil down my startup’s value proposition to a simple sentence, only to be asked by a 7-year old girl, “How can your company help my mom’s business become famous?”.  The other experience has been in trying to explain a dot com business at a Thanksgiving gathering where the only one at the dinner table who wasn’t a naysayer just came out of the oven.  The robust common sense of someone from the general public is something we are hoping will challenge the presenting entrepreneurs enough to refine their messaging if not rethink their strategy.


Here are tips for presenters at AlligatorZone :

Tell Your Story:  Talk to the audience as a gathering of a group you met at a neighbor’s backyard for a barbecue and tell them your story.  That means avoiding jargon.  Be a story-teller.  However, do not assume that your audience is clueless, so try not to dumb it down to absurd levels.  It’s something the street entertainer near the Ellis Island Ferry does effortlessly.  It is a skill entrepreneurs must learn.  Talk to the audience, not down at them even if they are lesser qualified.  They can be your greatest advocates with a single post on their personal social media channels.  Be extremely respectful even if a child inadvertently puts you on the spot, or a grownup deliberately does so.  While shows like Silicon Valley on HBO have a generous sprinkling of profanity, that is uncool, and is a dead giveaway of an entrepreneur’s poor vocabulary, or lack of imagination, or both.  Take yourselves lightly, take your product seriously, use humor very carefully if you have to, and remember that your goal is to be likeable. Consumers are forgiving of likeable presenters, and more willing to help them out or do business with them.  To quote entrepreneur, philosopher and author Rajesh Setty, likeability is an unfair competitive advantage.  Be the likeable and entertaining storyteller whose product or offering solves a problem for the members of the audience or for someone they know and care about.  The other rule of thumb that might work is, imagine your mom is also in the audience.  Make her proud.

Take Notes: Every reaction from the members of the audience has a lesson, be it indifference, a crinkled brow, a smile or a nod.  Note down their questions, their concerns and their suggestions.  Feel free to poll the audience members for questions you always wanted to ask about the use of your product or service, or about the pain it is supposed to address.  While on the topic of taking notes, allow us to add a valid and valued suggestion from Sean Murphy, who is also the founder of Bootstrappers Breakfast in Silicon Valley.  Bring a Spotter, suggests Sean, and further explains”Bring a friend who also observes and takes notes. It’s very hard to be improvising and reacting to the crowd and also noticing what’s not working or other reactions. They can also ask questions or help to direct your attention to an aspect of a question you may have overlooked or a help to clarify a statement (or give you a chance to clarify a statement)”.

Express Gratitude: A sincere thank you, a limited free trial, a free sample, an offer to keep them posted when you start hiring — whatever it may be, do consider a way to reciprocate their willingness to hear you out and offer you suggestions.

Plan B for those technical glitches: The other tip was the common Plan B tip in case the technology faltered during the talk.  Bring images, or handouts or samples to pass around.


The library has a solid infrastructure for holding the AlligatorZone event, including the big screen.

The presenting startups in the debut session on Saturday June 14, 2014 are:

Jess Rasemont, Founder & CEO of Rasemont Gardens bringing to your backyard, a subscription service of fully managed non-GMO and heirloom varietal vegetable plants that they have grown from seeds to insure that they are 100% organic home-gardens.

an app for making school dismissals easier for parents and school administrators.

Travis Russi, Founder of StuffHub, an app to easily trade stuff with friends.

We hope you can make it with your friends and family!  To reserve a seat, visit http://AlligatorZone.eventbrite.com.  The startup founders are excited about this opportunity to meet with the community!  We at SiliconGlades and the leadership and team at the Library are indeed excited to see the AlligatorZone program coming to life!

@AlligatorZone extends to Sunnyvale Public Library, California

May 27, 2014

On Saturday, August 23rd, 2014, at 3 p.m., AlligatorZone will hold a West Coast session in Sunnyvale Public Library in California.  RSVP: http://bit.ly/1pv78Ql

We at SiliconGlades are delighted to announce that Sunnyvale Public Library will hold a session of AlligatorZone, a free community gathering of members of the public aimed at entrepreneurs to seek perspectives from an audience that will help them identify the proverbial alligators that can hurt them and provide constructive feedback and input.


The 60,000 square feet Sunnyvale Public Library will feature the first west coast session of Alligator Zone on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 at 3 p.m. The library, originally the Reading Room, which opened in 1908, was passed over to the town to form the Sunnyvale Public Library, which became part of the county library system in 1917.

AlligatorZone, as the name suggests, is a program conceived by @siliconglades in Tampa Bay, Florida.  There’s a previous blog post that describes the philosophy behind AlligatorZone. Here’s a link: http://magazine.siliconglades.com/post/84618739102/why-alligator-zone-why-tampa-bay-area


This particular session of AlligatorZone will feature area-entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley, who will present their offerings to members of the public and engage them in conversations for direct feedback and suggestions.  The session will be steered by Librarian Liz Hickok, who kindly provided a tour of the library meeting room.


We discussed seating arrangements. The goal is to minimize or eliminate any perceived distance between the entrepreneur and the audience, so we have planned a layout and will choreograph it somewhat like a town-hall meeting.

Alligator Zone is open to all members of the public.  We know about entire families, including elementary school children who are into reality TV shows that feature entrepreneurs.  Our hope is that such families will take advantage of this town-hall meeting kind of event and gather with other entrepreneurial like-minded people to check out local startups.  Of course, rules that apply for story-time about being considerate to others would apply to the Alligator Zone session as well!


Storytime-rules will also apply to the family-friendly AlligatorZone sessions to be held at the Sunnyvale Public Library to provide as a public focus group to area entrepreneurs.

The Sunnyvale Public Library serves close to 100,000 members of the community.  Sunnyvale, being in the Silicon Valley has a heavy concentration of startups.  Feelers put out to startups have been met with enthusiastic responses.  If you are interested in presenting at AlligatorZone, please send an email to events [at] siliconglades [dot] com with a one-line summary of your product or offering.

Sunnyvale Public Library’s Patent, Business, and Finance Librarian, Liz Hickok (bio) has kindly offered to facilitate the first session of Alligator Zone at the library.


Sunnyvale Public Library’s Patent, Business, and Finance Librarian Liz Hickok, who has kindly offered to facilitate the AlligatorZone session, pointed to us during our tour of the facility, a crowded push-pin map of the world, marking countries from which patrons of the library hail.

For the debut session of Alligator Zone at Sunnyvale Public Library, the featured startups include:


If you are in Sunnyvale, California, we hope to see you at AlligatorZone.  AlligatorZone is currently scheduled in Tampa Bay Area and Sunnyvale in the Bay Area.  For a running schedule of other AlligatorZone sessions, please visit (and bookmark) AlligatorZone.eventbrite.com.  If you are an entrepreneur and wish to present your startup at AlligatorZone, please send an email to events [at] siliconglades [ dot ] com with a one-line description of your startup.

Why Alligator Zone, Why Tampa Bay Area

May 3, 2014


Tampa Bay Area is going through several small seismic shifts in its entrepreneurial ecosystem.  The energy is unmistakable, and especially apparent to visitors such as Kanwal Rekhi of TiE Silicon Valley (seen in the video below talking to Alexis Muellner, Editor of Tampa Bay Business Journal).

While we at SiliconGlades have been rolling out disparate free initiatives, the underlying theme has been the celebration of entrepreneurship with mindfulness. With AlligatorZone, we are finally starting to see some dots that we will be able to connect to form a template for creating an elegant tapestry of economic development that can be taken to small-town America, and small-town world.

I was recently at a Great American Teach-in session in an elementary school talking about entrepreneurship, and I paused before I mentioned the word ‘angel investors’. I asked the class teacher for help because I did not know how to explain ‘investor’ to a class of 4th graders. She asked, “How many of you watch Shark Tank on TV”, and several hands went up. That is when I believe, the idea of a more community-oriented and upbeat program got germinated. The program ought to be a gathering place for the community as well. Kids and families routinely feel sympathetic towards the tearful entrepreneurs shown on reality TV. They routinely think of new uses of a product being showcased. The kids seem to invariably get excited about every new entrepreneur walking in front of the panel, especially kid entrepreneurs and mompreneurs. Kids are often incorrigible makers, even in modern times, so their excitement about new products is not surprising.

Why the name Alligator Zone? It’s Florida, it’s well-known for the Everglades region, and just as the prospect of a lurking alligator in one’s backyard can keep people up at night, every startup entrepreneur faces unknown dangers (metaphorical alligators) that keep them up at night. Alligator Zone is a non-judgmental public forum where an entrepreneur can show her or his offerings to the general public and seek opinions. They can poll the audience on their pain points, pricing models and delivery mechanisms. The startup founder can ask the audience questions about features, must-haves and nice-to-haves.

The library seemed to be the perfect location to take this program. The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative has already been working closely with the community for the CoderDojo Tampa Bay Area program. It was obviously the first choice when we approached them for supporting AlligatorZone for a venue and promotion. Here’s a link to the official library poster: http://tinyurl.com/lh34fu8 HCPLC has moved on this as fast as any tech startup, and we are indeed proud to be working with them on Alligator Zone. Please sign up and be a part of a highly energetic audience at Alligator Zone.

Ask your friends, family, neighbors and school friends to come out and meet area-entrepreneurs and help them out with feedback and suggestions. With Alligator Zone, our hope is that we will be adding yet another blip on the radar screen of the world that is keenly watching for new booming economies. Follow the program on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AlligatorZone

This post was written by one of our volunteers from SiliconGlades. The twitter handle is @SiliconGlades and the website is www.siliconglades.com where other community initiatives are listed for your reading pleasure.