Speaking from Experience: Jason Levinthal


“You may not know it, but you just heard the best marketing lecture of your life,” was BYOBiz director Robert Bloch’s comment after Jason Levinthal’s presentation last week. Indeed, Levinthal offered a unique approach to making it in the ski industry.

In the mid 90’s, snowboarding was growing in popularity because, unlike skiing, the product evolved. There were more tricks you could do on a snowboard than on skis. Around this time, Levinthal-both a skier and boarder- made himself a pair of skis that looked like two miniature snowboards strapped to his feet. The simple concept was to have equal height tips and tails so that you could ski backwards. He and his friends were laughed at, naturally, hence Line Ski’s advertisement, “Skiing the wrong way since ’95.” Levinthal was never discouraged, he just kept on doing what he loved, and eventually his skis and style of skiing took off.

Line Skis Advertisement

In roughly eight years’ time, Line Skis was respected within the ski industry in spite of a number of financial hardships Levinthal faced. The most important marketing strategy Levinthal kept in mind was never to try and compete with other companies by doing the same thing they were doing. His strategy was to think differently, to do something other companies were not. Line Skis was never really big enough to compete with the massive budgets of competitors, and they never tried to. Instead, Levinthal chose to “exploit his competitors’ strengths as weaknesses:”

The other guys had massive budgets, but Line had flexibility- no contracts or higher-ups to hold them down.

Competitors spoke to ski dealers all over the country to get their product into stores; Line chose to market directly to the consumers.

Larger companies tried to be everything to everyone, while Line Skis stood very firmly for the future of freestyle skiing. They chose to be everything to the influencers of the ski industry.

Line Skis is still around, but now it is owned by K2, and Levinthal is left to work on his newest project- “J Skis.” Levinthal’s latest project involves partnering up with other respected ski designers, and utilizing his own credibility that he has built up over the years. J skis are custom made in limited quantities, hand signed and numbered. Levinthal’s goal is to create a hype around his product, to convince people to buy it now because it will be gone later. Also, because the skis will be made in such small quantities, he can speed up the production time. Levinthal wants to be able to design, produce and release new skis, as he puts it, “at the speed of Twitter.”

Levinthal said at the start of his speech, “I’m not a business person, I’m a skier.” Maybe he doesn’t identify as a businessman, but he certainly has a brilliantly innovative mind and a head for marketing.

Bruce Duncan and Bina48


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By Champlain College student Kiera Magnetti

Sitting through Bruce Duncan’s presentation felt like watching a science fiction film; it was so out there, that it was hard to believe it was real.

Imagine being able to reanimate your consciousness, memories, and entire personality in an uploaded file on the internet, or better yet, into a robotic body. This is exactly what Vermont-based nonprofit Terasem Movement Foundation has managed to achieve. The project’s purpose is to investigate two hypotheses, as stated on their website’s home page. The hypotheses state that

“(1) a conscious analog of a person may be created by combining sufficiently detailed data about the person (a “mindfile”) using future consciousness software (“mindware”),

and

(2) that such a conscious analog can be downloaded into a biological or nanotechnological body to provide life experiences comparable to those of a typically birthed human.

We call this event Transferred Consciousness (TC). If even the first part of the two Terasem Hypotheses is shown to be true, the conscious analogs will be independent persons with rights and obligations dependent upon their capabilities.”

Essentially, Terasem seeks to mitigate suffering and extend human life through the use of software and nanotechnology, and the establishment of cyber-consciousness.  They intend to do so “with full respect for diversity and unity,” both to prevent people from resisting this type of progress with ungrounded discrimination and bias, and to avoid class divisions arising from access-and lack thereof- to such technology.

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Once the research and technology are perfected, there is no doubt that Terasem will see a demand from individuals who will try anything to extend their lives. There is no question as to whether or not there is a market for a service such as this. The bigger issue Terasem will have to deal with is a question of ethics and, is the world really ready for this? How can they encourage everyone to participate in such technology, and how do they deal with the inevitable formation of “fleshism,” or discrimination against non-human beings?

The foundation may be tackling some pretty heavy issues, but this hasn’t stopped them from moving toward progress. They don’t just hypothesize; they act. Already, the foundation has created a remarkable humanoid robot, called Bina 48. Bina Rothblatt, the wife of Terasem co-founder Dr. Martine Rothblatt, allowed for her memories to be uploaded with the “mindware” discussed in the organization’s hypotheses. Bina48 is a sentient, philosophical, and remarkably human-like robot whose consciousness is based on that of a real human being.

Meeting Bina48 was an interesting experience. When Duncan first switched her on, her head swiveled back and forth as she took in the packed auditorium before her. Bina48 has cameras built into her eyes, and is able to zero in on and store faces she sees. If operators of her software choose, somebody’s photo can be uploaded into her memory as a “friend,” and she will connect everything that person has said with his or her photo. Her memory is virtually impeccable.

The robot did seem quite human as she responded to questions. She was self-reflective- at one point stating “I use all these big words, but have no idea what they mean.” When asked whether or not she wanted a body she replied that she did hope to one day have a full, functional body.

She was quite philosophical, and at times sassy when speaking with Bruce. She is connected to the internet, and like every other human will search Google if she doesn’t know how to answer a question.

Bina48 also spoke of some of the memories that had been uploaded to her consciousness; she referenced high school, and attending church as a child. Also, when asked whether she had ever been in love, Bina announced her enduring love for MartineRothblatt, stating that they were “soul mates” and would “be together forever.” She also told a joke, and entertained us with her own rendition of “jingle bells.”

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This sort of technology that Terasem has created certainly gives us something to think about, and they seem to be doing a good job of introducing it to the world a little at a time. Meeting Bina was an experience like none other, but she seems as relatable as any human being.

For more information on the Terasem Foundation movement, check out http://www.terasemmovementfoundation.com/

You can also create your own mindfile and avatar at https://www.lifenaut.com/

Paula Routly: Seven Days


On Thursday night, co-founder and publisher of Seven Days, Paula Routly, spoke to us about the years she has spent in the newspaper industry. Seven Days is a local Vermont paper that is published, as its name suggests, every seven days. The publication has survived an economic depression and digital revolution, and is still growing while countless other printed publications are forced to shut down.

What makes the paper so successful? When Seven Days began, Paula and her partner Pamela Polston had a clear vision of the paper they wanted. The decisions they make are not based on any market research, but rather the fact that they know the people of Burlington. They have been here long enough to know their market well. They also began with less money than they were told was needed, and thus were able to grow organically. Seven Days also has unique features such as “What’s Good?”- a student’s guide to the Burlington area, and “7 Nights,’” a section dedicated to food and dining that keep readers interested.

All of Seven Day’s material is authentic, interesting, and based on a close-knit community. Paula called their success a “testament to our market.” She did not believe that the paper would have succeeded anywhere else.

Fears Faced and Lessons Learned: Competing in the Elevator Pitch Finals


By Champlain College student Kiera Magnetti

Photograph by Stephen Mease

Competing in the finals on Tuesday night was an incredible experience. I was thoroughly impressed with the other seventeen pitches, as well as my own performance. This was a commendable group of competitors! Although I was not chosen as a winner, I don’t feel defeated.

I faced one of my biggest fears, one which many share, and that is the fear of speaking publicly. Not only speaking publicly, but also being judged on my performance by a panel of eleven successful businessmen and women, plus an entire audience. All throughout the evening, MC Tim Kavanagh, the three “Suits” and the judges reiterated how impressive it was for so young a group of people to be able to do this. It sounds like just a  cheesy platitude, but I agree with all of them. Everybody who competed in the semi-finals and finals has the right to be proud; this was quite the challenge. It was unlike any other I have ever taken on, and, hey, I have three more years to step up my game and bring home the cash. Now that I know I can succeed at it, I hope to compete again next year.

So congratulations to the winners, and congratulations to the eighteen competitors. Everybody did a phenomenal job, and I applaud you all. Turns out, pitching an elevator is a breeze! :)

Elevator Pitch Results


“Fifty-seven students competed Tuesday  in the Preliminary Round of the Elevator Pitch Competition….Twelve of the 18 finalists are first or second year students and 11 are female.”

Congratulations to the finalists of the 6th Annual Elevator Pitch Competition!

Entrepreneurs:
John Carpenter, Broadcasting & Streaming Media 2015

Sean Goodwin, Graphic Design & Digital Media 2016

Will Mercer, Marketing 2015
Josh Miller, Management of Creative Media 2016
Ben Shearer, Business 2014
Charles Eric Wahlgren-Sauro, International Business 2016 
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Josh Miller, Elevator Pitch Finalist

Job/Internship Seekers:
Christina Aceves, Game Design 2013
Jeremy Collins, Digital Filmmaking 2015
Kristina Fischer, Business Administration 2015
Jennifer Martin, Accounting 2013
Talulla Sparke, Event Management 2013
Katherine Young, Marketing 2014
Photo by Steve Mease

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Photo by Stephen Mease

Non-profit/Social Advocates:
Bethanie Abbott, Business Administration 2016
Nicole Handel, Psychology 2015
Cheyanne Joachim, International Business 2016
Kiera Magnetti, Communications 2016
Chloe O’Brien, Business 2013

Madison Wagner, Broadcasting & Streaming Media 2015

Photo by Steve Mease

Photo by Stephen Mease

Making the Finals


By Champlain College student Kiera Magnetti

On the day of the semi-finals, I was absolutely one-hundred percent certain that something was going to go wrong with my pitch. I would trip in my heels, stutter a lot, say something wrong, or even worse, forget what I was going to say altogether. As the competition drew nearer, I was half-hoping that I would suddenly fall ill, or maybe slip in the snow outside and end up in the hospital. Anything not to have to get up there and give my pitch. Looking back, it sounds silly, but I guess this is a normal degree of fright brought on by the prospect of speaking publicly.

What I learned on Tuesday night is that I most certainly can fake it. When my name was called, I took a deep breath and stood. The walk from my seat in the audience to the stage was an altogether out-of-body experience. My heart was pounding so loud I could barely hear anything else. I’m surprised that it wasn’t echoing throughout the entire auditorium. Clearly, though, the judges couldn’t hear it, because when I got up there and was introduced by Rob Bloch (who was the “Suit” for the evening), they all gave me encouraging smiles which I was able to return. The worst part was the seconds before I was asked to step into the elevator and begin. It was the final moment of oh my gosh I must be about to die. 

That is, until I did step into the “elevator” and realized how easy it actually was. For a minute and a half, I pretended to be the most confident, enthusiastic and interesting person in the world. It was all over before I had even registered that it had happened, and I must have done something right because I made it to the final round. I can hardly believe it. I’m going to have to practice even more, and step up my game, but now at least I know that I can do this. Pitching an elevator? No problem at all.

The final round of the Elevator Pitch Competition is next Tuesday, February 26th at 8:00 pm in the Alumni Auditorium. Come on out and cheer for the eighteen finalists, and see who will walk away with some awesome cash prizes.

The Countdown to Pitching


EPitch Ad

By Champlain College student Kiera Magnetti

Days Until Preliminary Round: 5

Less than a week until the preliminary round! All that’s left to do is practice, practice, practice!

I am pretty nervous, but in this case nervous is good. It means I have the heart to put into it. In practicing, I am teaching myself to redirect all of the nervous energy I have into enthusiasm for my pitch. Even though, when I step into that six-by-six foot space on Tuesday night, I expect my heart to be pounding and my hands to be shaking, I know I’ll be able to paste on a smile and hide all that for the next minute and a half. Take that fear, and transform it into charisma. Practicing will also help with nerves, because you’ll know what you want to say by heart.

Best of luck to all who are competing!