Great Lakes Geek Show - Top Tech Titans in Cleveland
Podcast by Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek

Entreprenerd Dan Hanson
Top Tech Titans in Cleveland
by Dan Hanson
The Great Lakes Geek

So how do you come up with a list of the Top Tech Titans in Town? That's what I did for my March column in Inside Business magazine.

The January issue listed the most powerful business people in town and I thought Tech needed its own list.

It was NOT an easy task. And I was surprised by how many people sent in suggestions and how many different people were nominated.

I was online in 1983 before several of the Up and Comers were even born so I approached the List with some historical perspective. The things that have changed the most over the years are in two areas - user groups and social media.

There is no doubt that 10, certainly 15 years ago the Top Tech list would be loaded with user group leaders. People like Bob Coppedge, Jim Evans, Stuart Smith, Bill Cohen-Kiraly, Spike Radway, Paul Stork and dozens of other user group and special interest group leaders.

In the early 80's through the 90's, user groups were where the techiest of the techies hung out. They were a place to gather with other geeks and share ideas, tips and tricks, fixes and sometimes even code.

Back when it was difficult to find tech information in the mainstream media, user groups were essential and user group leaders were kings. Believe me. I founded the Cleveland Computer Society in 1990 and led the GCPCUG (Greater Cleveland PC Users Group) for 5 years starting in 1990. Later I was 3 term president of the APCUG (Association of Personal Computer User Groups) which represented almost 400,000 computer users from all over the world.

User Group leaders were seen as influential players in the field and we were flown to Microsoft in Redmond, Symantec and Borland in Silicon Valley, Novell in Utah and other places.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with Dan Hanson and Judy Lococo

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with Dan Hanson
and APCUG president Judy Lococo

But as tech entered the mainstream conversation and the Internet exposed everyone to its power, user groups started losing their place as the sole source of this information. It became harder and harder to justify 3 to 4 hours on a Saturday morning to learn something you could find on the Internet from your home.

So while the user group leaders would have dominated the 1990 list, you won't find them on the 2010 list. Many are still doing terrific jobs but instead of influencing several hundred at a meeting, they now preach to a handful or a few dozen.

Of course Social Media techies would not have made earlier lists because Social Media is so new. Pioneer bloggers like George Nemeth and podcasters and other Web 2.0 types have hung in there but Social Media didn't really explode until LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

So who's a tech titan in Social Media? That's a different question than who is a Social Media force. Susie Sharp, for example, is an amazing social media devotee and leader. She really gets it. But for this Tech list I tried to look at people and remove the Social Media component from their resume and see what survived. So Anita Campbell, made the list on the basis of her very powerful blog, but Susie didn't because her focus is strictly Social Media.

Another hard part of the list was categorizing. Lev Gonick would certainly qualify under the Legend category but I placed him with other Educators because of his commitment to CWRU and higher education.

Packy Hyland Jr. is already a legend but he went in under Business Prime because his Workflow company is making great strides right now.

There were dozens of other difficult categorization decisions like those two.

I was disappointed that my list got cut and the most fun category, Up and Comers, didn't make the magazine. Here are the young guns that I included in the Up and Comer category. Check back in a few years to see who made it.

  • Jared Bendis, Creative Director of New Media at CWRU
  • Laura Bennett, CEO of Embrace Pet Insurance
  • Eric Clements, Acroment Technologies
  • Stan Garber, ONOSys
  • Andy Halko, Insivia
  • Lance Hill and Anthony Broad-Crawford of Within3
  • Dan Young, Principal at DXY Solutions, LLC

And to the many who asked how the popular vote went, I'll end with the Top Ten. But remember, popularity did not play a role (consciously at least) in the list creation. Hard to argue with any of them except that guy at #3.

In order, the top reader submitted Tech Titans were

  1. AJ Hyland
  2. Lev Gonick
  3. Dan Hanson
  4. Charles Stack
  5. Martin Harris
  6. Ray Voelker
  7. Jim Sage
  8. Roy Church
  9. Jim Cookinham
  10. George Nemeth

Whether you made the List or not, you can be proud that so many talented tech people are in our region. The List was a lot of fun and I plan on updating it every year.

I am looking forward to your feedback - who I missed, what categories should be included and so on.

Work on the 2011 List begins...NOW!

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