Editor's Note: KickStart Columbus is accepting business plan applications through August 28th for the SharkMeet and KickStart Retail competitions. 
Troy Miller: Swimming with Sharks
By Terreece Clarke, August 21st, 2014

A. Troy Miller is not just Columbus City Council President Pro Tem, he’s also an IT Pro who is determined to help Columbus continue to be a place where entrepreneurs can sucessefully launch and grow their businesses. As the catalyst behind KickStart Columbus program, Miller is working diligently to help entrepreneurs who have a great idea but need an extra push.

“The name itself describes its goal,” Miller said. “There are start-ups in Columbus who just need that one opportunity to kick start their business or idea to the next level.”

KickStart Columbus is comprised of two business plan competitions. The first, SharkMeet, provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to acquire investment capital for their product or app. Finalists will be pitching in front of a live audience to several local investors, including special guest investor Kevin O’ Leary from the popular ABC network show, Shark Tank.

The benefits are twofold, suggests Miller, “The primary benefit to participants will be their exposure to potential local investors about their startup businesses,” Miller said. “Second, the business plan vetting process with ECDI gives them the opportunity to fine tune their business plans.”

The KickStart Columbus program is rounded out by KickStart Retail, a business plan competition that’s aimed at retail services business owners: with a grand prize of rent-free, prime real estate in downtown Columbus.

The benefit of a rent free retail space can positively impact the costs of starting a business, according to Miller, “The free downtown retail space gives the new start-up business the ability to use rent or lease payments towards other parts of their business expenses, like payroll.”

Getting into IT

Miller said he first fell in love with tech during two summers in high school when he had a job at Bell Laboratories and was exposed to advanced telecommunications. That spark followed him throughout his career, even now, as the owner of his own Ohio-based web application and consulting firm in the health management technology field.

As owner of iSpec Data, Miller balances being a consultant, owning a business and the work of the Columbus City Council. Given this balance, Miller often finds himself advising people on their professional path. So does he advise public service or IT?

“Interestingly, around public events, I have been advising people to consider going into the IT profession,” Miller said. “There are thousands of IT jobs available not necessarily requiring programming knowledge but project management and process improvement. Those IT Pros who have programming, project management, and process improvement skills can provide an enormous amount of public assistance to help their government run efficiently and effectively.”

Taking IT to the City

Miller’s fluency and background in technology has translated into a rewarding civic experience, as he has helped encourage city leaders to expand their investments into technology adoption.

“Technology has always been in government, however, government has not been in the position to be early technology adopters. Cost factors makes it difficult, but I have encouraged city department directors to stay current with technological advancement within their area. Several of these directors have and will implement new web based applications allowing the public to access licenses, permits, forms, policies and procedures, and reports, Miller said.”

Miller is proud of one particular project that he sees making a major impact on the city.

“After joining City Council in 2009, I carved out a separate Technology Committee from the Administration committee,” he said. “This new council committee concentrates its efforts on advancing technology to reduce city operating and capital costs. For example, my first project was simply eliminating the reams of paper produced each week for legislation by purchasing ipads for council. This saved thousands of dollars each year for the city.”

The Future of Columbus

With the emphasis on entrepreneur support and technology adaption and adoption, Miller sees the city’s future tied to its support of entrepreneurs.

“Recently, I passed legislation establishing a Small Business Concierge position. This position will first develop a web portal where a startup or existing business can review all the steps to begin doing business within the city of Columbus. The business concierge will also solve and address issues (hurdles) related to policies, rules, procedures, or laws hindering small business development. I would like to see Columbus become "the city" in the midwest where entrepreneurs flock to, to start their businesses.”