Hi, I'm Chris
I'm a product manager, community organizer, and entrepreneur. In my free time, I enjoy sports, technology, business, and politics. Scroll down to learn more about me, or connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Earlier in my life, I made some mistakes that would come to define my future. Read my bio to learn about my childhood, teens, and early 20s, and some of the lessons I learned in the process of growing up.
I relocated to Huntsville from Boston for a job with Curse Gaming in January, 2015. Huntsville had a different culture than I was familiar with: it was quiet and family-focused, but its community was loyal and ambitious. Right away, I got the impression that the people of Huntsville had big aspirations for its future. Over time, I've adopted those aspirations and have become passionate about helping Huntsville flourish.
Huntsville has a ton of potential. You'd never guess that this small place in Alabama could be so forward-thinking. It's full of brilliant minds—more PhDs per capita than anywhere else in the country. It's home to world-class institutions, such as NASA, the Redstone Arsenal, HudsonAlpha, and Lowe Mill. Decades of focus in esoteric industries (defense and aerospace) has fostered a more private culture here, however it hasn't stopped these institutions from recruiting a creative, innovative workforce. The people of Huntsville have incredible creative capital.
To me, Huntsville feels like a nest-egg of an almost-city. It's like a startup; its potential for growth provides a great civic opportunity. As an entrepreneur, I see opportunities and desire to innovate. And as someone whose livelihood is validated by connecting people, Huntsville presents an ideal opportunity. It has all the components of a soon-to-be-city—400,000 people, money, resources, smarts, proximity to other cities, an influx of transplants—but it lacks the social infrastructure to connect its dots. That's where I can help.
To me, Huntsville is one of the most exciting places in the country to live. Cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco are great, but they've already hit their pinnacle. They have millions of people, tons of great bars and restaurants, sports teams, transit systems, and diverse economies, but their fight is gone; they've won. Folks who live there aren't writing their city's story the way we are here. Huntsville has the potential to be the next big thing, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to help it get there.
The Foundry is a commercial tech startup studio with the goal of building 15-20 new tech startups over the course of the next 5 years. Unlike a startup incubator, which invests in and mentors pre-existing startups, we raise capital, hire employees, and build companies together from scratch.
Our first startup is called MyPostOpCare and provides a post-surgery patient-education app to surgery practices and hospitals around the country.
NOVA Huntsville aims to connect young professionals with local community groups. We've uncovered over 250 community groups in the North Alabama region that could be of interest to area YPs. We're building technology to connect YP transplants, visitors, and longtime residents with these groups for the benefit of increased awareness and involvement in the community.
In May 2016, we threw a large event to kickoff our brand. We reserved the Signature Flight airplane hangar at Huntsville International Airport and had an attendance of 1,200 guests and 70 community groups. The event was a smash success and helped to raise awareness about the breadth of diversity among sports, activity, interest, cause-driven, professional, and tech community groups in the region.
Archer Sparrow is a creative consulting agency that focuses on helping Huntsville-area clients fulfill their web / photo / graphic / marketing needs. In addition to providing web design and development fulfillment ourselves, we connect area companies with other local service providers and individuals who are part of our broader network.
Our goal is to become an authority in the Huntsville market for companies looking for guaranteed top-quality creative assistance.
Open Huntsville is a website and community organization that was borne out of conversations I had with small business owners who expressed a desire for greater access to freelancers. Without the budgets to hire agencies or full-time employees, these folks wanted to find designers, programmers, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who could help them with specific business needs.
Over the course of a couple of months, some friends and I got together to design and build the site using Huntsville-based Ruby framework, Pakyow. We launched the site in August of 2015 with a party at the Apple Store at Bridge Street.
The site has about 300 members and is used everyday by people looking to find and work with members of the community.
Currently, the team and I are working on v2 of the site, which will have a broader focus on professionals in Huntsville rather than exclusively on freelancers. The team includes Andrew Hall, Joe MacKenzie, Kyle Newman, Tarra Anzalone, and myself.
Code for Huntsville
Upon moving to Huntsville, I was eager to get plugged into the local tech scene. I looked around to see if I could find any hackathons or tech conferences, but there weren't any. As a result, I began talking with folks about organizing a hackathon. One of these people was Larry Mason, who had a specific interest in civic hacking. After a month or so of discussions, we launched Code for Huntsville in April of 2015.
Code for Huntsville is Huntsville's chapter of Code for America's "Brigades" network. We organize our community around two goals:
- Lobbying our local government to publish non-sensitive public data to open, API-accessible databases.
- Building civic apps using that data, either based on the city's needs or the broader needs of the citizens of Huntsville.
Since our launch, we've worked on a number of projects, including a mobile app called Frontier, a Google Analytics dashboard, a trolley tracking app called Hop Around Huntsville, and a project that involves gathering bicycle tracking data. We've built valuable connections with the city and helped to bolster Huntsville's civic/tech community.
In April of 2015, I launched Code for Huntsville with a kickoff event at the AL.com building in downtown Huntsville. At this kickoff, I propositioned our audience about participating in weekly Hack Nights—basically weekly mini hackathons—to which they expressed interest. As such, I began hosting weekly Hack Nights on Wednesday nights at AL.com.
After several months of events, Hack Night was reorganized as Coworking Night. Nowadays, a group of digital makers gets together weekly to co-work on projects. Each week, we structure the event like a conference, with a variety of different tracks that guests can attend. We host back-to-back events and coworking, starting at 6pm and continuing through 11pm.
3210 is a social community for young professionals who are interested in startups and entrepreneurship. We meet bi-weekly, either to deep-dive the founding stories of successful tech startups, or to hear the founding stories of local tech startups from the founders themselves.
Huntsville Founders is a video series featuring the stories of Huntsville's business founders and entrepreneurs. Every two weeks, we release a new founder story in the form of a 3-7 minute video.
The inspiration behind Huntsville Founders came from several conversations I had with people who hadn't heard of Brandon Kruse. Brandon, who founded, grew, and ultimately sold his company, DialMaxx, is one of Huntsville's more accomplished young entrepreneurs. I felt that entrepreneurial leaders like Brandon deserved to be championed in the community.
Rather than portraying entrepreneurs as Silicon Valley bigwigs, we aim to personify entrepreneurs as everyday folks who took a business risk. Our hope is that our videos reach the eyes of would-be entrepreneurs who relate to our founders' stories and who start their own companies as a result.
Our goals at Huntsville Founders are:
- To inspire would-be founders to start their own companies.
- To create well-produced mantle-piece videos celebrating the pursuits and achievements of Huntsville's founders.
Huntsville Founders is produced by Andrew Hall, Elizabeth Hagale, Seth Turner, and myself.