Ask The Influence: Meet Mr. Cranky, Glen Hellman

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We like to turn the camera around, so to speak, from time to time and conduct our own interviews with the movers, shakers and influencers in our community.

This Ask the Influencers interview is with Glen Hellman, a notable force in the DC community as well as on a national stage supporting entrepreneurism. He was recently profiled in the Washington Business Journal in Bill Flook’s column (requires subscription) with the title: Mr. Cranky: Glen Hellman


SBX: You are an entrepreneur, an executive coach, an angel investor, and a vocal contributor in the DC tech scene. What drives you every day? What do you enjoy the most?

HELLMAN: I love what I do because it has a purpose. I’m an advocate of entrepreneurs, I’m an advocate of DC, and I love real life puzzles or problem solving. Every day I have a new challenge and whether it’s with a client, a portfolio company, or volunteer work, I get to solve puzzles that help entrepreneurs build a better DC business ecosystem.

There’s a Vistage Chair I’ve met, Pat Hyndman. He’s been doing this for 50 years. He’s in his 90s and his mind is a quick, sharp and facile as any 40 year old. That’s because our minds are a muscle and Pat has been giving his mind a strenuous mental work out every time he meets with a client. I’d love to be able to be like Pat Hyndman when I’m 90. I’d love to look back at 50 years of helping great CEOs be better CEOs while keeping myself in the game.

I can’t think of anything else I could do that has this much pay back.

SBX: What do you see for the just-starting out entrepreneur in today’s world? Any advice you can share?

HELLMAN: It’s Okay to be smart. It’s not okay to think you have all the answers. Always get opinions, always continue to learn. read, debate, seek peer advice and then don’t get paralyzed by all the different inputs. Use the inputs, be decisive and move forward.

SBX: You believe DC can make its own mark in the technology scene, and that we should be blazing our own trail. How do you think we can do that?

HELLMAN: I think we would be best served if we took advantage of our strengths. We’re a data enriched town…… focus on Big Data. We have some momentum in education technology which is getting big, and healthcare/biotech. Focus on the few industries where we have a competitive advantage and dense centers of excellence.

Let New York focus on Media, and Financial Apps, they have the Subject Matter Experts and Density to do that. Let’s not try to be all things to all people. Let’s not try to take on Silicon Valley on all fronts. Let’s pick a few sectors where we have an advantage and then let’s build up the density and mass required to be excellent.

SBX: You have many opinions on what makes a company great, or “ Are there companies locally you’ve seen be just AMAZING?

HELLMAN: You know there are many of them. That blog just flowed. When I get riled up or passionate about something, I can knock out a blog in 20 minutes. This was a blog with two inspirations. The first one was Dan Berger, CEO of Social Tables. Dan is a brilliant guy. Passionate, knowledgeable, strategic, like most good CEOs. What makes Dan a great CEO is that he’s also a bulldog. He’ll do the ugly stuff, the heavy lifting. He doesn’t understand the word no and he’s not afraid to hear no. It’s like no, is a good thing because it gets him 3 or 4 nos away from a yes.

On the other side, there are a few folks who I’d rather not expose that drive me nuts. They’re all about the trappings of being an entrepreneur and a CEO but unlike Dan, you won’t see them shoveling poop.


About the author:-Elizabeth Shea@eliz2shea -Elizabeth Shea is president and CEO of SpeakerBox Communications, the firm she cofounded in 1997. In the decade since founding her own firm, Elizabeth’s passion for technology public relations has grown stronger and more finely tuned with the arrival of new communication strategies. Her biggest sense of accomplishment comes when her clients exceed their business goals.