CC012: how Cleveland is rallying their community around a new tech movement // a Coffee Chat with Bernie Moreno (Blockland)

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Bernie Moreno: 00:00:00

There was about making it a community wide effort and not being about one person or one organization and it’s kind of shaken up the structure of Cleveland because Clevelanders are not used to that and most community do you want to use that? Most people are used to a small group of people going over when they come for the plant, it presented to the community and say, Hey, this is what we’re doing. If you don’t like it too bad. If you like it, great is what we’re doing anyway. It never really gets traction is it doesn’t have to buy it.

Jay Clouse: 00:00:27

The startup investment landscape is changing and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to Upside.

Jay Clouse: 00:00:55

Hello. Hello, hello and welcome to the upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Jay Clouse and I’m accompanied by my cohost, Mr Eric, your microphone is on mute himself, Hornung. Yup. Your microphone’s still on mute.

Eric Hornung: 00:01:12

Oh, are you kidding me? It is. It’s so hard remembering whether or not your microphone is on mute or not. There should be a little thing on Skype that tells me microphones on mute, like when your caps lock’s on, when you’re going to type in your password on your computer and it says caps lock’s on. Why does it not have that for microphone on mute?

Jay Clouse: 00:01:32

I want to be on your side here, but we do this so often now that I think there’s no longer an excuse for you to not check before you speak.

Eric Hornung: 00:01:41

I think my excuse is just being me. I’m just going to, I’m going to own this. It’s who I am now. It’s my nickname. You know, it gives the, it gives the interviewee a little pause. That’s what it is. A little chuckled to collect their thoughts and think.

Jay Clouse: 00:01:54

Yeah. To the listeners here during our post production process, I’m pretty sure that our post production wizard Nathan edits out at least once in every episode me saying, Eric, you’re on mute because I see him speaking in the video, but there’s no audio coming through at least once per episode.

Eric Hornung: 00:02:11

I just have such deep breathing. I have to be on mute, you know, uh, otherwise would just, you would just hear in the background and no one wants that.

Jay Clouse: 00:02:19

Or We’d hear Hank.

Eric Hornung: 00:02:20

[inaudible] Hank parking. Yeah.

Jay Clouse: 00:02:21

Does the new pop filter cover up the red flashing light on the front of the microphone?

Eric Hornung: 00:02:25

It does, I think, which is why it’s, the problem has gotten worse. So I got a new microphone and the mute button works great. Whereas my old microphone, the mute button worked about 50% of the time, which was the problem. But now I have a pop filter and it has a red outside and I can’t see through the pop filter to see the red button. So it’s really just, you know, muting. Maybe it’s just not for me.

Jay Clouse: 00:02:47

I struggle with the false unmutes myself coz I have the old model of the microphone that you replaced.

Eric Hornung: 00:02:53

So you do the double click, the triple click, the hit it click. It’s a process.

Jay Clouse: 00:02:57

Yeah. Yeah. These are the, these are the behind the scenes problems of podcasting folks.

Eric Hornung: 00:03:03

And we’re going to get to go behind the scenes somewhere else today.

Jay Clouse: 00:03:05

That’s right. Today, we’re talking to Bernie Moreno of the Bernie Moreno companies. Bernie has over 20 years in the retail automotive business. In 2005 he purchased what has become the largest volume Mercedes Benz dealership in central Ohio and since that time he’s added many brands including Aprinter, Porsche, Infinity, Aston Martin, Maserati and Rolls Royce. He’s based in Cleveland and this past year he was one of the main drivers of an event called Blockland, a blockchain solutions conference that took place in Cleveland the first week of December. So if you’re like us, you’re probably hearing that background and that event and kind of saying, what is that connection, and we were in the same spot. We were very interested to hear about it, especially given that from what I understand, this thing was pulled off in about six months of preparation time.

Eric Hornung: 00:03:58

Yeah. One of the things we do here on upside is we look at cities and how they’re developing and a lot of times that is a 10-20 year plan. This is the complete opposite of that. This is, I have an idea to make this city relevant. Let’s do it now and we’re going to get into it in the interview, but I just think it’s so audacious we had to have them on.

Jay Clouse: 00:04:19

Totally. And as we’ve talked to Todd Fetterman of North Coast Angel Fund with Cleveland, there’s definitely some embedded attitude culture in the community there, which Eric you have a unique view into as a native Clevelander and I have a unique view into as someone who has to talk to you every week. So I thought it would be really enlightening to hear how somebody goes in from what seems like an outsider’s perspective and creates buy in with a whole community to pull off a pretty large scale, very relevant conference in such a short period of time.

Eric Hornung: 00:04:50

You know, you don’t have to talk to me every week, right? Like we can, we can cut this. We can just end it right now or you can talk to me after this interview.

Jay Clouse: 00:04:59

Listen, I don’t do it for you. I don’t do it for me. I do it for the people.

Eric Hornung: 00:05:02

If you’re doing it for the people. Then let’s jump into this interview with Bernie and then you and I can have to talk to each other afterwards. Ready?

Jay Clouse: 00:05:11

If you guys have any thoughts on this interview as we go through, you can tweet at us @upsideFM or email us, and we’ll get into this interview here with Bernie.

Eric Hornung: 00:05:22

Hey guys. Wanted to cut in here real quick and let you know about something. Jay and I have been getting ready behind the scenes in 2019. When we started this podcast, Jay and I said that you the listener, will have an opportunity to learn in real time to think like venture investors with us as we meet a wide variety of personalities and examine a wide range of industries. Well now we’re going to share something new and it’s a little different. This new idea is called the update. It’s a carefully curated quarterly publication of editorials, trends, and stories happening outside of Silicon Valley. Jay and I will be writing stories about what we’re learning about on the podcast, have guests, editorials on interesting topics and share news and updates from our pod co’s and some cases we may even share some exclusive content or first looks. Our goal is to stay at the cutting edge and of course bring you along with us. We’re super excited about it and know you’re going to love it. If you want to be the first to hear about our Q one launch in subsequent letters, go to to get on the mailing list.

Jay Clouse: 00:06:30

Bernie, welcome to the show.

Bernie Moreno: 00:06:31

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Eric Hornung: 00:06:33

It’s awesome having you here on upside. We like to start with a history of the guests, so can you tell us about the history of Bernie?

Bernie Moreno: 00:06:41

Oh boy. Where do you want to start now? I’ll give you the quick rundown. So I was born in Columbia, South America and move to the US when I was five. I always loved cars and I always wanted to be on the car business so I ended up deciding to go to the University of Michigan. Decided in my mind that I was going to be the chairman of the board of General Motors and went to work at Saturn, actually automobile magazine my freshman year as a I go for during school and then during the summers I got a job as an intern at Saturn corporate and worked for there during the summers between my sophomore junior year and then when I graduated, went to work for them full time. I worked for Saturn Corporate in Michigan and Tennessee for three years after I graduated from college and then out of the blue, I met a car dealer from Boston who hired me to run one of his car dealerships, despite the fact that I’ve never worked in a car dealership before. Ran his Saturn dealership in Rhode Island for three years and then moved up to Boston for him and ran a few of his luxury dealerships, Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, et cetera. Did that for another nine years and then again out of the blue about 14 years ago, Mercedes Benz called me and told me they had a really crappy Mercedes dealership in Cleveland they wanted me to buy. I said, well, that sounds perfect. So I came to Cleveland 14 years ago, bought one Mercedes dealership, grew that to 21 dealerships in four states, and then about two years ago, decided to sell all but four of my dealership, three that my original and Cleveland, two other ones here and then one in Miami, they keep those for a while and then decided to have a smaller focus on the car business like, like I just mentioned, and then moved into technology specifically looked at that blockchain for the last two or three years as a way to develop technology solutions, primarily for governments. So that’s me in 90 seconds.

Eric Hornung: 00:08:23

I like that. Can you take me back to, as a kid in Columbia, what was it about cars that stuck out to you?

Bernie Moreno: 00:08:29

Well, I wasn’t so much out in Columbia because I was, I was five when I moved here, but my dad was the equivalent of the secretary of Health in Columbia and when he moved to the US, he was 40 he had to become an intern at a hospital in Miami doing rounds in the middle of the night. So he went from a very privileged lifestyle to kind of, you know, working class guy. As he built up his career, he would kind of measure how well he was doing depending on what kind of car he was driving. And so maybe I, maybe my joy of cars comes from seeing my dad be so happy about that, getting a new car. And when he finally got a Mercedes, it was kind of like the ultimate sign that he had made it in America.

Jay Clouse: 00:09:06

Yeah. What was your perception growing up in South America? Talk to me about your evolution of understanding what North America and the United States was.

Bernie Moreno: 00:09:15

Well, I joke that when I came to the US, you know, this is 1971 south Florida. And so when I moved here, it was a lot of people that my mom, my mom made me promise that we would, and all my siblings that we would have to figure out the meaning of a word before we asked her, we had to look it up in a dictionary. We had to work on it. And so that worked pretty well. But there was one word that I kept hearing over and over again, which is Spec. I didn’t know what it meant. I couldn’t look it up in a dictionary. It was completely out of context. So when I asked her mom what it meant, she said it was an acronym that stood for Smart People at Columbia.

Jay Clouse: 00:09:49

Amazing. That’s such an amazing story.

Eric Hornung: 00:09:52

How long were you in southern Florida for? 71 to what year?

Bernie Moreno: 00:09:56

To 85, so I went to kindergarten through senior year high school there.

Eric Hornung: 00:10:00

So that’s, that’s like prime cocaine cowboys territory, right. In Miami.

Bernie Moreno: 00:10:06

That was the four drug actually when we’re in hours there for 71 85 it was mostly marijuana coming from Colombia but after I left there it kind of shifted to coke, you know the Pablo Escobar year. But that was kind of after I left.

Eric Hornung: 00:10:20


Jay Clouse: 00:10:20

Wild. So you come to America and you had this vision of running GM for a little bit because you’re in to car, you start with Saturn dealerships. Talk to me about when you first got into cars and being a part of those companies. Did it live up to your expectations?

Bernie Moreno: 00:10:38

I love, love working for Saturn. It was amazing. You know, Saturn was basically, it was like a master’s degree in business because it was, it was more like a college campus in a corporate environment because we looked at everything from a clean sheet of paper, what’s the right way to do something rather than what’s been done previously. So it was a great experience working for Saturn. At the end though General Motors swallowed it back up. It was spawned from GM as this innovative new thing, but the GM culture just couldn’t stand the fact that this innovative little company was doing such amazing things and so it sucked it into it’s mediocrity orbit. And at the end, basically the GM who created Saturn ultimately ended up killing it the same way they’ve destroyed a lot of what they did.

Eric Hornung: 00:11:22

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Saturn created to compete with the Japanese automakers? Wasn’t that the whole process and idea?

Bernie Moreno: 00:11:29

Yeah, exactly. It was general motors answers to Honda and Toyota and again, when it first came out, they revolutionized the car business in a lot of ways. I mean a lot of the things that happened today in the car business, owe their roots to what Saturn did in the late eighties early nineties but again, General Motors just couldn’t live with the culture. GM was so negative that and so big compared to Saturn that they basically ended up sucking Saturn into its orbit and when that happened, it just died.

Eric Hornung: 00:11:57

I kind of want to stay on this thread but jump through time a little bit. Today we have a new car company that is claiming to be incredibly innovative in Tesla. Do you have any kind of hot takes on Tesla? As someone who’s been in the car industry for a few decades.

Bernie Moreno: 00:12:14

Yeah. Tesla has an amazing marketing machine. I mean, Elon Musk is master of marketing. I mean he truly single handedly has made the electric car relevant. If not for him, one human, you would not be talking about electric cars the way we’re talking about electric cars today. Every car company on earth dismissed electric cars and he basically put them on the map. Obviously the company has lost an enormous amount of money over over time and a lot of Tesla is partially it’s technology, which is good, but mostly it’s the aura that he’s been able to create around the brand. That’s pretty remarkable.

Eric Hornung: 00:12:52

You’re saying people aren’t talking about Fiskars.

Bernie Moreno: 00:12:55

I was a Fiskars dealers. I can assure you. Talking about Fiskars, I must’ve an amazing job or tests. I mean the guys, one of those people that will not take no for an answer it looks at in the eye and has created a pretty amazing company. I mean he’s done what companies dramatically larger than him have ever failed to do. So He’s, he’s probably one of the most iconic people in the car business as a result.

Jay Clouse: 00:13:21

Yeah. Not a lot of car companies are able to also just send one of their models out into space as a marketing ploy.

Bernie Moreno: 00:13:29

Well yeah, I mean exactly and he would probably be Steve Job for us to computer devices as maybe Elon Musk to the car business and essentially he also had a lot of other careers. You’ll see Jobs obviously to Pixar and other things. And Elon Musk for Space x or with Tesla is done a pretty, pretty amazing job. People have counted him out many times.

Jay Clouse: 00:13:49

You mentioned that the Mercedes, a company called you and said, quote, we have a pretty crappy dealership in Cleveland that you can, we want you to buy. I’ve read that in interviews with you before too. So what was it about, you know, such a bad sounding offer that spoke to you and you said, you know what, I’m going to take you up on that.

Bernie Moreno: 00:14:07

Well, I saw potential. So while the dealership may not have been performing well, I believe that the Cleveland market was a good market. The local Lexus dealership was doing very well at the time it was outselling the Mercedes. You lift them dramatically more than a should have been. And I saw that as an opportunity and quite frankly it was the only Mercedes dealership ever reported to buy. So it was one of those things where a w a window of opportunity opened and I jumped thorugh it and it’s worked out really well.

Eric Hornung: 00:14:37

How do you change the culture in that dealership when you first show up because it’s under performing? I’m guessing that there are a lot of reasons for that, but what are your first hundred days look like when you buy a new dealership?

Bernie Moreno: 00:14:49

You know it’s funny, you have to immediately building a different environment and we talked about was being completely sales driven, were totally focused on sales, we were client obsessed, we’re very community focused and we’ve built a team culture. I think those are the four pillars that made us work and then it was about bringing the right people together. I was fortunate to have some people that came with me from Boston that could help me put that culture throughout the organization. But fixing that culture was really important and it goes to what are your reward mechanisms? What do you cheer about, what do you get upset about? And all of that has to align. And typically what I find is if you get the customer, the client obsession part right, and a team part right? Everything else kind of happens from there. And we were successful basically on our first month. You know, the dealership that sold 24 cars in five and a half months before we bought him. We bought on May 12th of 2005 and from May 12th to May 31st we sold 80 cars. So we were successful right from the Gecko. Certainly part of it was because I had no plan B. You know, I put every dollar that I’ve ever seen in my life and this dealership and in the event it failed, you know, I would be working the drive through window and Mcdonald’s having to sell a lot of supersizes to feed my lifestyle. And the people came with me from Boston. We’re kind of in the same boat and we changed the culture and we were right. You know, we took that Lexus dealership and devastated their sales and rudeness dealership to be the largest seller of luxury automobiles anywhere in the Midwest. We’re not just Mercedes of any brand, anywhere in the Midwest, including Chicago, which is a much bigger city. Of course, we outsold every Mercedes dealership in town, combined. And there was a lot of Mercedes dealerships in northeast Ohio, namely six. So we’re just one of six but we sell more cars than the other five combined. Mercedes has an award that they measured dealerships on a bunch of different factors. It’s called the best of the best award. It’s given to the top 15% of dealers. It’s virtually impossible to get it two years in a row. We’ve got a 12 out of 13 years that we were eligible and it’s a testament to put in these foundations in place and you just working on those things every day.

Eric Hornung: 00:17:05

Jay and I are both members of the Blockland Facebook group and have followed it since its inception. It seems like those pillars that you used in your launching of a new dealership in Cleveland are pretty translatable to what you are trying to bring into Blockland. So I want to kind of take a step back and for the listeners who aren’t familiar with Blockland, can you tell us what Blockland is in your own words?

Bernie Moreno: 00:17:33

Yeah. So we’re actually a couple of years ago, decided to wind down the amount of exposure I had in the automotive business down to these four dealerships in 21 so it’s all 17 dealerships. And then it was kind of like what’s next? I landed on blockchain by three or four years ago and started thinking about some things that we can do a blockchain. We’re, I’m very familiar with the process of car titles and the amount of bureaucracy and paperwork and efficiency that goes with producing this crazy piece of paper. So we had this idea that I had this idea to put, hydro is a blockchain and as I put together the team you to do that, you know the CFO, the CTO, the chief architect, you know your CEO, all of these seats, right? Almost all of them looked at me and said, well where do you want to do this? Meaning that Cleveland wouldn’t be the place that you would build a tech startup. And I found that unacceptable because this is where I made my money, this is where I wanted to live and set it up. So Blockland was born from the idea that the next entrepreneur would say to himself or herself, Cleveland’s a natural place to start a tech company. And so if Blockland really represents is that how do we make Cleveland a significantly relevant tech city and using knowledge of blockchain or be really, really good with blockchain is kind of our creed to be able to be part of the larger national tech community and build out an ecosystem for all tech companies in the process. And so we created these notes, 10 of them, put on the conference and listed a huge volunteer army and it was about making it a community wide effort and not being about one person or one organization. And it’s kind of shaken up the structure of Cleveland because Clevelanders are not used to that. And most community were not using that. Most people are used to a small group of people going into a room. They come up with a plan, they presented to the community and say, Hey, this is what we’re doing. If you don’t like it, too bad. If you like it, great. This is what we’re doing anyway, and it never really gets traction because it doesn’t have the buy in. So this is about re thinking Cleveland as a tech city instead of maybe historically manufacturing or healthcare oriented community, but rather a high tech center. And so we think we can do that.

Jay Clouse: 00:19:43

When did you start putting Blockland plans into action or like you know, concepting the idea?

Bernie Moreno: 00:19:49

Yeah, may of 2018 so about 10 months ago or 11, 9 or 10 months ago. And then from there just started recruiting people, you know, 20th first and now we’re up to 1,650 type or self volunteers the effort, I say this with enormous pride, if you were back in May of 18 maybe 98% of Blockland was my idea. Today, maybe 2% Blockland is my idea. And I say that with pride because what it really means is that Blockland represents the concept of Blockland and the, and the way we’re doing Blockland is really not about one person but truly a community wide effort on how to change northeast Ohio and do a tech city.

Jay Clouse: 00:20:29

And Blockland itself ran the first week of December of 18.

Bernie Moreno: 00:20:33

Right. Right, right after thanksgiving. It was a three, a four day conference, super successful. We had to shut down the registrations actually because we were oversold. We have about 2000 people attend, 149 speakers. They’re all really amazing and we have a lot of breakout sessions. We had a startup component, I mean it was just absolutely fabulous.

Eric Hornung: 00:20:52

I remember thinking when you had announced the date that that it was incredibly audacious and I kind of doubted it a bit. I won’t lie that it would be as much of a success as it was, but my brother spoke at it and I just heard from everyone that it was a great success. So I want to kind of dive back into how that kind of came about. You said the volunteers and the community and I felt that part, but I also saw articles about you meeting with kind of some higher up people around the city. So can you kind of take us behind the scenes there.

Bernie Moreno: 00:21:30

With the conference? Yeah, it was, it was a [inaudible]. There we put this thing together for months. We had to get the headliners first because the headliners are really important to get the others, you know, we got Nick Sevo for example, just through sheer determination. My Son who’s 20 watched a bunch of youtube videos and his one really long youtube video, you flashed his email address up on the screen. So I said, what the heck? And we shot him an email saying, hey, here’s what we’re doing, Blockland blah, blah, blah, blah. Would you come to our conference? And I get an email back two or three days later, says, sure, that’s all it said. And then I’m like, damn, I didn’t actually think it was actually, I thought it was possible that it wasn’t the real Nick Sevo until the day of the conference when I walked into the green room and I saw, they’re like, cool.

Jay Clouse: 00:22:21

I organized some larger scale events but not bigger than Blockland by any means. And a four to five months lead time is crazy, crazy tight without having this army that you mentioned. So you know, I would actually love to hear your perspective on what the Cleveland Community and culture is like generally for listeners who are not from Ohio or Cleveland.

Bernie Moreno: 00:22:45

Yeah, it’s an amazing place. It really is. I’ve lived in Columbia, south Florida. I lived in Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Boston off Cleveland. Cleveland’s very unique and it’s very, very tight knit. Small community, although part of a very big city, it’s 2.5 billion people in the DMA, in the general market. So it’s a big place. It’s, you know, top 20 cities in America. It also has small town and Western feel to it and people collaborate when they want to collaborate, which we did for Blockland and for the conference. The magic happens and that’s when Cleveland’s at its very best. We have all of the amenities of a big city. We have the cost of living of a city that has dramatically less infrastructure and less to offer than most cities our size. I mean, we have world class orchestra, we have world class art, we have probably the best theater district outside of New York City, we have an amazing food scene. We have this great lake. So Cleveland has a lot going for it. It’s just suffers from ironically, the same issues as Columbia because when people think about Columbia, the first thing you think of as Pablo Escobar, narcos and cocaine, although the country has incredible resources, so Cleveland’s kind of the same way. It just has an image problem. But when people go to Columbia or when people come to Cleveland, they come here to Cleveland and they’re like, wow. And that’s what we saw from the conference. You know, the 2000 people that attended, especially about, I don’t know, 200 or 300 or 300 of them, I think that came from out of state and every single person was blown away by Cleveland. I spoke to one person who was from New York City and she’s originally from eastern Europe, and when she’s talked about how she had come to this conference in Cleveland, she almost didn’t come because she’s like, Oh, you know, Cleveland, what am I going to do there? And she loved it. Love love love it. And I think that’s what people find here that’s a surprise to them.

Eric Hornung: 00:24:36

What kind of pushback did you get, if any? Well, I’m going to guess that you got some pushback from people around Cleveland when you first started pitching this idea.

Bernie Moreno: 00:24:47

Cleveland is doing better with it’s self deprecating nature, but it still can’t help itself a little bit. And I think it comes from being, you know, many, you know, 30 40 50 years of being browns fans, where they almost expect to lose. So there’s, there’s an enormous amount of nay saying and snarkiness that happens sometimes within the Cleveland community. It’s dramatically less than it was 14 years ago. And I think the conference, to a large extent, a squashed a lot of that. But there’s still a lot of people in Cleveland who almost expect not to be successful. So there’s the push back from that, like it can’t, why? Why would it be possible for us to be a tech city? I don’t, we’re not a tech city, we can’t do it. But the good news is the vast majority of people don’t think that way. And in fact, typically it’s the people who moved to Cleveland that are much more aggressive about pushing Cleveland Fuller, that people who’ve lived here their whole lives. But that’s changing quite a bit. And I think now it’s an environment where people think that we can do this and we will do this. And we’ve seen that kind of a speeding car and a community really happen, which I’m really, really, really excited about.

Jay Clouse: 00:26:15

I love the story about getting the email address from the YouTube video. One of my biggest core beliefs is that access is often easier than you think it is. And that’s just a perfect example of that. But I would love to hear some more very tactical examples of once you had this idea and you started running with it, what were the first three to five steps that you took? Because there are a lot of people out there listening to this who probably have a movement of their own. They would love to start and don’t know how to actually get buy in from people.

Bernie Moreno: 00:26:27

Yeah. So I started with the idea in May, that the other people, I say, Hey, who are people who are like minded, who are doers who are action oriented and who works more than I. And so I got to get to those 20 people, the concept they liked it embraced and I said, well why don’t we need to again bring a bigger group of people we did. And then from there they don’t just kind of a lot of traction. I think the key was making this mission simple, keeping the message clear and crisp the entire time. And then the conference was really, really important because as I always say, the world needs a deadline. And so saying, hey, we’re going to this conference on December 3rd revenue wise, and that becomes, everything has to be completed by then. You now have a rallying cry because if you don’t have that deadline, it’s hard to get people aligned to get things done. And it was really one of those things where we knew we had to do it. I mean, once we announced the conference, and I said this to people many, many times had Blockland solution has been a failure, I would’ve done more damage to Cleveland’s tech future than good because people was that seeing we can’t do it, then they Sanders would have won the dark forces in the community who kind of cheer for failure would have won. But the fact that it was an unequivocal success isn’t because of anything I did. It was because of the way everybody came together to make that happen. And it did a lot to squash those naysayers. So it was about a summary of the right people with you, correct deadline, thinking the right vision, and then just be dogging about execution and that not letting anything or anyone tell you that it can’t happen because if you do, and that’s by the way similar to what you’re doing or any tech startup because if you listen to naysayers, you know, the naysayers don’t think anything can be done. And it was the same way when I opened his dealership in 2005 when I bought the dealership, literally the day we closed the deal and we were the people who sold it to me or leaving the guy who ran the place, who ironically owns a Nissan dealership next door, now opened the door, left, came back in and said, hey, goodluck with doing nothing all day. Because in his mind this dealership was a failure. And because he thought that it was. So it’s, it’s just frame of mind is so important.

Jay Clouse: 00:28:49

Coming from the auto background and moving into tech, how did you know who are the right people to surround yourself with and how did you you know shift into what I kind of see as a very different place in pretty quick time.

Bernie Moreno: 00:29:04

Yeah, so with technology the Blockland effort helped a lot because it made a lot of connections for me. We’ve been able to build an all star team so far with our tech company, obviously very bullish about that. It’s just always being on the lookout for talent. You never know where you’ll find it. You know Randy Cole is a good example. He’s our chief strategy officer. He ran the Ohio turnpike. I just happened to be with me one day and I’m seeing this guy talking and I’m like, this guy is sharp. I, he really knows what he’s talking about and got to know him a little bit better. Just a great guy. I knew his term was coming up because it was a new administration coming in and hey, listen, want to joined the team, our chief technology officer, the same kind of story. I’m a big believer and always making connections, never burning a bridge and always realize that someday in the future that connection may have value to you.

Eric Hornung: 00:29:56

I want to jump back into the idea of an image problem. One thing that blockchain has an image problem with to some people is this idea of cryptocurrency. The block land solutions conference was geared towards enterprise and governments. How did block land differentiate itself from a traditional cryptocurrency conference, which at the time of them being of Blockland being planned, we’re kind of a big thing. There were a lot of them.

Bernie Moreno: 00:30:24

Yeah, we didn’t want to be another V2 crypto conference. I went to consensus in New York in April of last year. It was a total disaster. It was kinda nonsense to be honest. I mean people are talking about just ridiculous ideas that have no basis in fact or reality, but it was going to have some coin that would be issued. That coin would go up and value to $1 billion and we just, all this nonsense and there wasn’t really solving any problems. And I’m a big believer in the underlying technology, so we looked at it from how can you use this underlying technology to solve business government problems? And actually I’ll talk about it now, but I’m really supposed to wait until the digital chamber of Commerce meeting in March 6. But I’ve come to the conclusion that blockchain as a word, as a technology is a tainted word and it’s just not a good one to use. So we don’t really, I’m going to shift the focus to talk about from talking about blockchain, which means a hundred different things to a hundred different people. If you’re talking to, and you guys know this, if you’re talking to a crypto enthusiast, there’s no such thing as a blockchain solution for government and business. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a square peg in a round hole because by definition you have to have mining proof of work. You have to have de-centralization no controlled no authority. Well, how do you factor that into a government solution? And then on the other side, if you’re talking to somebody, a businessperson who’s running supply chain or government running, for example, car titles, it, it’ll, well, how am I going not going to have a centralized or decentralized database? There’s no central authority. This is my damn data. So blockchain is used loosely to describe all this, so we came up with a new term marketing 101 when you have an image that you rebrand and so what we talk about in our company, and I want to have it be the standard really for what we’re doing, that’s our ambition is to talk about BELTED solutions and a BELTED solution is an acronym that stands for Blockchain Encrypted Ledger That’s Executable and Distributed, meaning that there’s three thresholds that you should look at with the solution makes sense. Do you need blockchain type encryption? Meaning do you need a public key private key situation? You need to have people have access to a ledger but not the full ledger. You want him to be military grade type of encryption. Is that really necessary or will more standard type of encryption system or a few on a centralized database. If The answer is no blockchain encryption works and that’s important to me and that’s one threshold. Does your ledger need to be executable? Meaning do you need to have bullying code built into your ledger that executes commands? Is that an important criteria for you? Sometimes the answer is no. Then you shouldn’t use a BELTED solution. And then finally, do you want with your permissions to give your ledger in a distributed way than multiple parties where this trust in the system is important? If the answer is all three of those things are yes, then when we talk about is BELTED solution. So for example, if you’re doing car titles rather than saying, Hey, I’m doing car titles on blockchain, we’re doing BELTED car titles. So Car title system is a BELTED solution. You can do birth certificates, can be BELTED, death certificates can be BELTED. So now it’s you can have a BELTED device, you can have a BELTED piece of your technology that’s much better. I think from a perspective of talking about blockchain, which then you start saying, well, what does it have to do a bit coin? Well a BELTED solution has nothing to a bitcoin. There’s no comparison between the two. So we prefer to use the term BELTED going forward.

Eric Hornung: 00:34:04

Are you the first people using the term BELTED or is this a industry term that you’re adopting?

Bernie Moreno: 00:34:10

No, we created the term, we’ve copy-written it and we want it to be something that’s widely used, widely adopted. So we want it to be kind of like Kleenex, right? It’s just a term that people use for these kinds of solutions or what’s good about it is when you think about BELTED and you’re talking about government and business solutions, it makes people think, what are some things that kind of fit those three criteria where there’s a lot of friction, a lot of back and forth verifications that have to happen. And then I’ve literally pitched this to many CIOs who are reluctant to even talk about blockchain, but we talked to them about BELTED. They’re like, Oh hey, we can do tracking of PC purchases using a BELTED solution to manage PC lifecycle. And then the light bulb goes off and hey, we can use it for medical payments, we can use it for this other situation and supply chain. So we, we’ve, it’s really a way to get people’s brains to think about what are some things that you can do that kind of fit those three criteria rather than watching and what is it you’re encrypting one set of data with tying it to the next block is distributed. There’s no central authority, they can’t wrap their head around that. So by using the word off the solution that can really wrap their head around that.

Jay Clouse: 00:35:26

How has the general blockchain community received what is going on in Cleveland?

Bernie Moreno: 00:35:33

You know, I’d say mixed. We certainly made a lot of noise with the conference. We’ve made a lot of noise of the fact that they’ll hot state of Ohio is the first state to accept cryptocurrency. We’ve made a lot of outreach to Toronto. We’ve made a lot of outreach to Tel Aviv, which are two great centers for blockchain technology. The challenge is kind of goes back to this BELTED solutions issue that you have people who are pure crypto enthusiasts and then you have people who are trying to figure out how to use the technology that I called BELTED solution. So what we want to do with that term is to have people understand that Cleveland is the world capital for BELTED solutions and then kind of get our credibility along those lines. But a lot of the noise or activity today still is in the crypto world because it was the first big APP using blockchain and it’s sad to say that I’m opposed to Crypto, I don’t like it. I think we’ve encouraged a lot of businesses to use and take cryptocurrency. I’m a big believer that unless cryptocurrency is used and not just invested in it will really be legitimate long term. You can’t just keep trading it for the sake of trading. It actually has to have utility.

Eric Hornung: 00:36:43

So when I think about world capital of x, I think about a timeline or a period where there were once thousands of small enterprises doing x. So in New York there were thousands of banks in Manhattan, in and trading houses in San Francisco, there are currently thousands of startups just in general technology in Kansas City there are hundreds of animal health companies. Like when I think about world capital of BELTED solutions, how is Cleveland going to get thousands of BELTED enterprises?

Bernie Moreno: 00:37:21

Because we can create an ecosystem here where we create this, those technology solutions for companies all over the world. So you can use BELTED solutions for supply chain, for all kinds of medical applications, for manufacturing, for verification of IP. You know, one of the things that’s interesting is if you look at the youtube counter, if you ever watch a video, it stops at 301 because then that’s when youtube starts to audit. Whether those views are real or not. That’s a great application for a BELTED solution. I think about the solution, we’ll say Facebook because if Facebook doesn’t implement something like that, it’s going to eventually be regulated to death literally to that. So if Facebook is sharing my data, I make a deal with Facebook that says, I’ll let you share my data, but I want something in return. You can use a BELTED solution around the validation of whether they’re, they are, they’re not sharing my data and how I’m getting compensated for that. So I think when I look at is you know, hundreds of companies, startups that are working on those problems here in Cleveland and much like what had happened in Seattle when you put Microsoft by accident, by the way, because there’s no reason Microsoft should have been in Seattle, you know Bill Gates, his mom hadn’t insisted on staying in Seattle. Maybe it would have ended up in New York if Bill Gates’ dad had insisted that bill junior move home in exchange for getting alone. Maybe Microsoft would be headquartered in New Mexico, but for Microsoft you spun off a lot of tech and all of a sudden Seattle’s are all in texted him. We gotta take for granted that that just happened. We can do the same sort of thing here in Cleveland.

Eric Hornung: 00:38:51

So you need one big winner or is Blockland the movement? I guess it’s from a talent perspective is what I’m more curious about.

Bernie Moreno: 00:38:59

Yeah, you need a few big winners for sure. I mean, I’m hoping that I can provide one of those with my company obviously, but you do need a couple of big tech exits here that then spin off other ones. You need a big startup culture and you also need big tech to eventually come in and set up shop here locally. So if for example, oracle is important to just do BELTED systems, they’re going to do everything and do not, right. Same thing with Cisco, Microsoft, et Cetera. But if all of them think of and say, hey listen, we’re going to all of our BELTED, if I can get them to adopt that term projects all in Cleveland because we get attract a bench of talent that can go there. Where it’s low costs, great tech community, great environment and we can have access to great talent around this, then they would do that. And I think that’s how you create that kind of ecosystem here.

Eric Hornung: 00:39:55

So this is a lot on the successes side. Yesterday you tweeted that Votem, which I believe you’re an investor in, shut its stores and laid off all of its employees and failed.

Jay Clouse: 00:40:08

Can you explain for the listeners what the Votem product and business model was?

Bernie Moreno: 00:40:12

Votem was a platform that took voting of all types so it could be voting to, like for example, we did voted for the rock and roll hall of fame or they’re a fan vote, all the way to military absentee voting ballot. So the idea is if there are serving in Afghanistan and there’s an election, the cost of the government to get you that ballot, have you fill it out and they get you that ballot back and then how long that takes so that your ballot may know or may not be relevant is crazy. So the idea with Votem as is stands for vote mobile so that you could take through using BELTED solution, right? There you say with BELTED solution, you could send a ballot to somebody’s smartphone where they could do the vote, it would be recorded through a BELTED system, and then you could validate the fact that your vote got counted exactly as you intended to bring transparency, speed, efficiency and drive costs dramatically doubt for voting. That was it. That’s the basic concept.

Eric Hornung: 00:41:14

What is your take on the failures that are going to come with the path to eventual success?

Bernie Moreno: 00:41:22

Yeah, I mean that’s also part, it’s interesting. That’s also part of shifting the culture. You’re going to have a lot of failures in technology that’s that’s if you don’t, then you just don’t have enough companies giving you the shot because if you, if, if the community is, is that every tech company that starts is going to succeed. You probably don’t understand how technology works and so Votem’s a good example of good idea, good idea, but executed poorly in a sense that it grew too fast, all the things that every tech company mistake occurs, grew too fast. Burn through it’s cash too quickly, was over optimistic about its funding capabilities and you know one over it’s skis. That doesn’t mean that the idea is a bad one. It doesn’t mean the underlying technologies a bad one. I always joking with a friend this morning who asked me about that. I said, just because General Motors went bankrupt, it doesn’t mean that car companies are bad ideas, right? It just means a general motors didn’t execute it’s business very well. Dot. How many dot. Coms went bust in the late nineties early 2000 how many dot coms drove us today. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to use the internet or the underlying technologies that my hope is that Pete Martin, I feel badly for him. It’s devastating for your heart and soul into a startup and and see it fail. That’s terrible. I feel horrible for the employees. You know, for me it was an investment of under 5% it was half a million dollars sort of hurts, but I’m still able to get the work and feed my family and pay my bills. I feel absolutely horrible for the employees at poured their heart and soul into it and missed a paycheck and now have to get a job. It’s just how it works. That’s the nature of technology. It’s the ultimate evolutionary animal. You know? You can’t just hit a button and create Facebook. It doesn’t work that way.

Eric Hornung: 00:43:14

Do you think that in Cleveland founders and early employees of companies like this, if they were to spin out and start another company, are more or less likely to get funding because they have a failure on the record.

Bernie Moreno: 00:43:29

When we have our culture, right, the answers are going to be more likely because nothing is better than failure to teach you the lessons of business and you need to know. Would I invest with Pete again, is a question. Then I wouldn’t say he needs to learn an enormous amount from this experience that if done properly, he won’t be very successful in the future. And, and you guys know all the cliches. I mean there’s, we get each share five stories, at least minimum of companies that started out as failures that actually ended up to be incredible successes. Many entrepreneurs that were very successful. I mean, we just talked about Steve Jobs, right? There was a lot of failures in his life, but nobody’s gonna say Steve Jobs. So as a failure and technology, that’s just the way it works. I mean, I would say the message to the employees of Votem and future employees of future failed companies, failures is what you signed up for when you went into a startup world and technology and instead of using it as something that nobody’s going to, nobody’s going to care that feel like crying and sucking your thumb in the core.

Bernie Moreno: 00:44:33

The world isn’t going to care that you feel that way, so you got bored yourself up, brush it off, learn from it and go back into the back. That’s what you just got to do. That’s what winners do.

Jay Clouse: 00:44:43

Bernie, do you consider yourself an active angel investor? Obviously you invested in that company. Is that something that you’re doing fairly regularly at this point?

Bernie Moreno: 00:44:51

Yes, so one of the other people that I hired to run my company is a [inaudible]. He used to run up ab Bernstein for the Midwest and so we’ve made 13 angel investments. Obviously we, one of them didn’t work or we have other ones that did really well and that our expectation is that 40% of them will be home runs. 40% of will be duds and the middle ones would be like, hey, and that’s just the way it works. So we’re doing two things we are doing angel investing and, we’re investing in venture funds and then also creating our own companies.

Jay Clouse: 00:45:22

You guys are operating fairly independently. You’re not, you’re not under like a north coast umbrella?

Bernie Moreno: 00:45:27

No, no, no, no, no. I’m self funding. All my current tech company, there’s no point in me bringing in investors right now because at evaluation that I would put on the company would be shortchanging it and I’m still fortunately in a position able to sell fund and so we won’t bring investors in until we have significant revenue because then my valuation will be dramatically higher. Why would I pass on value to an investor when I don’t need to?

Jay Clouse: 00:45:52

Yeah. So how have you yourself learn the ropes of angel investing to the point where you feel comfortable doing that?

Bernie Moreno: 00:46:00

Well, we have really smart people around me so Shane knows what he’s doing. Crazy, crazy, smart, much smarter than me have people like Randy and then operating capacity and we, we don’t go too far. It’s on our skis. I mean like I, I believe that the Votem, I still believe the Votem business model works. I think it’s a great idea. It just wasn’t, the company wasn’t executed as well as it should have clearly because it failed, but I think it was a sound company when we invested in it. I think the big strategic mistake is he did a big acquisition and just went over our skis. Had he not done that acquisition, I don’t think he would’ve failed. Hopefully that’s a lesson that you learned a lesson for me. Then I learned if you don’t learn it everyday, there’s something wrong with you and the lesson. For me, it’s all of these other companies that I have, we’re going to be a lot more aggressive about finding out exactly what they’re doing on a more regular basis than we were. We were a little too lax with Votem that and that being on top of what they were doing.

Jay Clouse: 00:46:58

In the Midwest, there’s a kind of a bias towards investing in companies that are B2B SAS and and have traction in terms of immediate revenue. What types of companies are you most interested in and is that constrained to the north, northeast Ohio geography.

Bernie Moreno: 00:47:17

Primarily in northeast Ohio, because again, I can’t be a hypocrite. I want to build an ecosystem here doesn’t mean exclusively northeast to have primarily and companies that I understand. I’m not going to invest in companies that I don’t know the business. That’s not what I choose to do. If there’s synergies with other things that I’m already doing, so like one of the companies I’m really excited about as a company called driver and that’s perfect natural synergies to my business, the CEO’s fantastic, very conservative, very sharp, keeps be very well informed. He, he’s just a perfect type of entrepreneur I like, and again, the business is just very synergistic, was what I already do.

Jay Clouse: 00:47:53

All right, one last question then from me, Bernie. This is something that Eric and I ask each other at the end of most of our interviews about the companies we talked to, but I’d love to hear your perspective on what you’re looking for from the Cleveland ecosystem or northeast Ohio generally in the next 6 to 18 months. To continue this momentum that you guys have started with Blockland?

Bernie Moreno: 00:48:14

Yeah, so we have, we have five things. When we’re sitting here, a year from now, we have five things that we want to do. Number one, we want to pull off in another amazing conference solutions too. We want to have a series of events between now and the conference to kind of build up that momentum that are worthwhile, that are substantive and that it causes people, especially young professionals to create a tech community so people get to know each other. That’s really, really important again, it goes back to this philosophy I shared with you the idea that these connections, no matter how slight you may think they are and will pay dividends in the future. So this idea of a conference with events and community’s goal number one. Goal number two is we want to recruit a big tech company to Cleveland. We want to have either Google or Microsoft or Amazon open an office in Cleveland, not obviously a headquarters, but in an office in Cleveland. We think there’s a lot of attraction to doing that. We think that Google would be a natural organization. They already have a lot of Googlers, so called that exist within a one hour drive of the year. So for them to consolidate them in one office in Cleveland, want to have that done this year. We want to create a startup package that manages talent and concierge for startups. So if you’re doing a tech startup, you can go to one centralized place that kinda guide you for everything that you may need. We wanted to create funding mechanisms for pre seed seed series a, series B creative funding mechanism in town that if you’re in need of funding that you have a variety of sources and go to. And finally we want to create the world’s largest technology center. We call it city block that would have a school attached to it. And we want to have that up and running and in place that, that people could see, visit and spend some time and when they go to Cleveland. So that’s, those are the five things that when we do those, we’ll give each other a pat on the back at the end of the year.

Jay Clouse: 00:50:07

Awesome. Well that almost warrants a follow on interview a year from now to hear how all those things are going after the show. If people want to learn more about you or about Blockland, where would you send them to?

Bernie Moreno: 00:50:18

Yeah, for sure. The Blockland Cleveland Facebook pages where they go, that’s where you have a great community. I mean you guys are proud of it. You see it. People are very passionate about the posts on there. It has dual role. Again, building the community, education, sharing of articles. It’s just a great place to interact with like minded people.

Jay Clouse: 00:50:34

You know, Eric, when I was growing up, I did not have cable.

Eric Hornung: 00:50:38

You didn’t have cable. Why not?

Jay Clouse: 00:50:40

Literally had only your basic channels. The Fox, the CBS, the NBC. Um, my parents didn’t believe in giving that to me. And so one of the biggest changes in my life was getting cable and then Netflix, Netflix really change the game.

Eric Hornung: 00:50:55

Or are we supposed to have a pity party for younger Jay here or is this, where are we going?

Jay Clouse: 00:50:59

Most of this podcast is built to give Jay a pity party, but not right now. When I’m talking about is the idea of being able to binge television and the fact that Netflix brought that to the surface and now podcasts are doing the same and that’s what Nick Overhouse said on his iTunes review binge worthy. I listened to a handful of entrepreneurial focus podcasts and up until this point I’ve been consistently jumping around from podcast to podcasts in search of good content. In comparison, I just realized that I’ve listened to 14 consecutive upside podcasts since finding the show.

Eric Hornung: 00:51:33

Man, that’s a heck of a review. That sounds like something that I’d want to read live on our applied podcast.

Jay Clouse: 00:51:39

That sounds like something that I like to read every morning when I wake up.

Eric Hornung: 00:51:43

Wow. Look at us waking up reading. Great podcast reviews. If your listener and you want to leave a great podcast review, maybe Five Stars throw a review up on apple and we might read your podcast review live here.

Eric Hornung: 00:51:59

All right, Jay, we just spoke with Bernie Moreno. We talked about a lot of things. We talked about Blockland, which is kind of the purpose of this episode. We also talked about him as an angel investor. Some of his thoughts about Cleveland, some of his background as a car guy. Where do you want to start? What do you, what’d you, what were your big takeaways?

Jay Clouse: 00:52:20

I enjoyed the little gifts that I was not expecting as part of this interview. I was not expecting to talk about Votem. I was not expecting to talk to him as an angel investor. Those were fun little asides that I’ve got to pull out of that. This was an interesting interview to me because as we said in the intro, this is somebody who’s coming at this from what seems like an outsider perspective, but as in playing in La and a lot of the same spaces that you and I play in but still has mostly an outsider’s perspective into those different places. So I enjoyed that aspect of this interview and you know, I’m, I’m impressed and I was impressed before the interview that this thing was pulled off in that he bring the idea forward, his humility and saying, you know, at the beginning of this is probably 90% my idea, but at this point Blockland is like 2% me because I surround myself with smart connected people. That’s the type of humility and attitude that you need to pull off such a large scale event that leverages what I assumed to be dozens if not hundreds of volunteers.

Eric Hornung: 00:53:18

It’s kind of amazing because every headline that was in every paper about this Blockland initiative was Bernie Moreno, car guy is going to put on this blockchain conference. And he had to overcome that. And I think one of the ways he did it was with surrounding himself with all these people. And he made a comment once in the Facebook group that someone said, you know, I got tired of running into the wall and they were talking about their history of being a venture investor in Cleveland and feeling like nothing was ever getting done and Bernie respond to that and said, don’t worry, I have a really hard head. And I love that idea that he’s just willing to like run through the wall for this idea and he’ll fly people to Toronto to learn about what’s going on there and meet with people from Tel Aviv and think about accelerators and recruit Google like that is just the kind of audacity that I guess maybe Silicon Valley is like famous for and he’s bringing a little bit of that flavor and that ambition to Cleveland.

Jay Clouse: 00:54:20

I think it’s a little bit of the type of audacity and attitude that artists and creators have to have in general. There’s a book I just added to my reading list that I haven’t read yet, but I love the concept of it just from the title, which is the courage to be disliked and I think you have to have some level of that to actually make significant progress and make things, you know, it’s, you know, hot take from me from an hour of talking to Bernie, I’m going to guess that he’s not the most politically correct or concerned with being the most politically correct guy, but he’s ultimately trying to make things happen and like you said, I have a hard head. He was going to make things happen. I think you need those types of people in an ecosystem, especially in an ecosystem where there seems to be these naysayers and detractors that he mentioned too.

Eric Hornung: 00:55:02

I love that you reference books that you haven’t read yet. That’s my, that’s my favorite thing about you.

Jay Clouse: 00:55:09

The problem is I buy a lot of books. I collect a lot of books. I put them on a shelf and I never read them, but they make me look intelligent. That’s true.

Eric Hornung: 00:55:15

And you have a very nice shelf that sits right behind where you usually record, not where you’re recording right now, so it looks like you’re very intellectual.

Jay Clouse: 00:55:24

That’s right.

Eric Hornung: 00:55:25

One of the things that I really liked about this interview is this is the first time on upside that I felt like I knew something about the company that I couldn’t find online or the guest or whoever before the interview. Like I, I’ve been involved with the Blockland Facebook group. I think he said it started with 20 people. I think I was like invite number like 60 or something and now it’s 1600 people. So I’ve seen this idea develop over time. I’ve called in to some of the meetings. I’ve seen the pitch decks, I’ve seen everything kind of get created. I haven’t had the most active role in it mostly because I was moving from New York to Cincinnati and I have a job and this and it’s kind of tough to put more stuff on your plate, but I was a supporter and I was active in the community and I’m actively commenting and sharing. My brother, as I mentioned actually spoke at the Blockland conference on Insure tech. So it was just really cool cause I know that you had this experience with some of the companies from Columbus. It was really cool getting to dive deeper into things that I already knew as contrasts it with learning things for the first time here on the podcast.

Jay Clouse: 00:56:39

So you mentioned that your brother spoke at the conference when the conference was happening. I was literally not speaking, I was meditating on that trip at this time so I missed all of the actual like during period of Blockland I was in the Facebook group at the time. I called into a couple of calls at one point, but I didn’t have any sense of like how it went. So you know from your observer’s perspective, how did it go?

Eric Hornung: 00:57:03

From everything I saw? It looked like it went awesome. My Dad went to go see my brother speak. My Dad spoke incredibly highly of the conference and everyone who was there and walking around social media look like there were a ton of people there. The keynotes were large names. The side rooms were great topics. I think that overall it was just like a very impressive conference. And one thing that I don’t think Bernie mentioned is that Cleveland got behind it. I think that the Cleveland Tourism Group, I forget their name, but they’re the ones who say it would make the Cleveland signs and Cleveland if you’ve ever seen them.

Jay Clouse: 00:57:38

Jobs, Ohio got behind it.

Eric Hornung: 00:57:39

Jobs, Ohio got behind it. I know that we talked to some people down in Cincy tech who shared it around with their community and with Cintrifuse. I’m sure the same thing happened in Columbus, so it seemed like the people in Ohio know about it even if they didn’t go. So I think the word definitely got out. I mean it sold out. So what, what more could you want?

Jay Clouse: 00:57:57

Looking at the website and gleaning what I can about the event, I was able to compare it to my organizing experiences with startup week in particular, which is a huge bear of an event to put on and this seemed bigger and they did it in about the same amount of time. Maybe less, but for the first year doing something, even if you have experienced organizers on your team, have organized events before the first year you’re doing any one particular event is really, really tough. You don’t know exactly what it’s gonna look like or what the protocol or processes need to be. So the community must’ve really delegated in, put a ton of manpower into this thing to pull it off to the level that they did, which you know, it’s just really, really impressive to me.

Eric Hornung: 00:58:39

And it’s only one of the pillars of the Blockland movement, which is such a bigger idea. It’s this idea that Cleveland is going to become a tech center with a focus on this. Well, he’s calling BELTED solutions. What do you think about this idea of creating a tech terminology and owning it?

Jay Clouse: 00:59:00

I’m a big fan and it wasn’t owning it for the sake of directly monetizing it. He did make the tie in to like Kleenex, but I love the idea of taking a term that is not being received the way you want it to. Making it a more accurate new term that you can kind of coin. I mean it’s, it’s part of branding. As part of marketing. I talked to people who operate freelance and tech businesses all the time about this, so I do really like that. It’s unfortunate that it’s in the same relative space where ICOs were returned into something else and people are saying like that’s still the same thing. Like stop trying to just put a new term on it.

Eric Hornung: 00:59:40

Yeah, I just love the idea that you can play off the rust belt idea.

Jay Clouse: 00:59:44

I was thinking that too. I was a guest. The rust belt. Yeah.

Eric Hornung: 00:59:48

All right Jay, well this was a fun one. If people want to interact with us about this episode, where should they go?

Jay Clouse: 00:59:56

We’d love to hear a feedback. Guys, you can tweet at us @upsideFM or you can email us, If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating on iTunes or send it to a friend. Otherwise we’ll talk to you next week. That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest. So shoot us an email at or find us on Twitter @upsideFM. We’ll be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder and our quest to find upside outside of Silicon Valley. If you or someone you know and make a good guest for our show, please email us or find us on Twitter and let us know and if you love our show, please leave us a review on iTunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple of things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast and so here we go. Eric Hornung and Jay Clouse are the founding parties of the upside podcast. At the time of this recording we do not own equity or other financial interests in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcasts participants are solely their own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of Duff and Phelps LLC and its affiliates Unreal Collective LLC and its affiliates or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview begins: 06:26
Debrief begins: 51:58

Bernie Moreno is the President of the Bernie Moreno Companies. He has 20+ years in the retail automotive business. In 2005, he purchased what has become the largest volume Mercedes-Benz dealership in the Central US. At one point, he owned 21 dealerships.

He is on the board of Dryver, a personal driver company and owns Hotcards, an online print broker.

He also founded Ownum, which is an incubator for blockchain and other technology companies. One of those first companies is Champ, which digitizes car titles.

His was the first Mercedes-Benz and Porsche dealership in the US to accept virtually all kinds of crypto currency.

Bernie helped start the Blockland Cleveland Blockchain Solutions Conference, an effort to make Cleveland the epicenter of blockchain technology for business and government applications.

The Blockland initiative exists to educate and promote real-world blockchain applications, while establishing and leading a blockchain ecosystem with support from private, public and philanthropic individuals and organizations.

The Solutions Conference took place in Cleveland December 1-4, 2018, with over 2000 attendees, 149 speakers, and more.

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