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51 FOUR American Made BUCKFIELD, MAINE, IS ABOUT as far as you can get from Silicon Valley, both geographically and culturally, without leaving the lower forty-eight. It is a secluded, small town that is spectacularly beautiful and quaint, with a hard-to-pin-down mystery about it. One of those mysteries is that Buckfield, Maine—not Menlo Park or Cupertino—is home to one of the greatest Internet sensations of the past decade. Buckfield is where you will find “the Coke and Mentos guys.” EepyBird Studios, founded by Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, is the firm that turned a popular middle-school cafeteria game—mixing Mentos candies with Diet Coke to explosive effect—into a viral YouTube video featuring 200 liters of Diet Coke and 500 Mentos gushing in monstrous, choreographed geyser displays. People could not look away. Grobe and Voltz’s Coke-and-Mentos videos have been viewed no fewer than 120 million times. Grobe and Voltz have put on spectacular displays across the world and for Late Night with David Letterman. Thanks to EepyBird’s handiwork, Coca-Cola, easily the world’s most recognizable brand and already sold all over the world, enjoyed a 5 percent bump in sales of two-liter Diet Coke bottles.1 Mentos sales spiked 15 percent. Grobe and Voltz graced the cover of Advertising Age magazine. Now, after their breakout, EepyBird is a successful video and advertisement studio, responsible for the production of several viral campaigns for 52 PEACE THROUGH ENTREPRENEURSHIP major American brands. Grobe and Voltz’s book, The Viral Video Manifesto , offers a recipe for producing hit web videos and was ranked a top-ten business book of 2013 by The Globe & Mail of Toronto. Coca-Cola’s Director of Interactive Marketing says EepyBird’s work has “the impact of a Super Bowl ad.”2 Grobe and Voltz are truly innovative; they are true entrepreneurs. But note that they do not live in Silicon Valley. Note, also, that neither Diet Coke nor Mentos are high-tech materials. Grobe and Voltz have built a company far from Silicon Valley, and done so in low- and no-tech industries. Grobe, Voltz, and EepyBird illustrate, in some ways even better than Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, a key, continuing thread in American entrepreneurship . As creative and wacky as Grobe and Voltz may be, they are actually quite typical of most American entrepreneurs now and throughout our history. Americans have a penchant for turning highways and byways into symbols. Wall Street is the home of our stock exchanges. Main Street is the spiritual address of mom-and-pop enterprises. Washington D.C.’s K Street denotes lobbyists, and Park Avenue in New York means white-glove privilege . Route 66 came to symbolize the West. And Interstate 101 rolls through the heart of Silicon Valley, with Sand Hill Road the literal and figurative home of venture capital. But we could also take a trip on a road with less symbolic importance. U.S. Route 1, which wriggles along the Maine coast and up to Canada, originates in Key West, Florida, just a block from a Starbucks and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Café. Key West is compact, barely spanning five square miles of land, and Route 1 cuts through quickly, never far from ocean waters, before arcing up the Florida Keys toward Miami. The funky Key West streets that Route 1 bisects are home to over 5,000 businesses .3 Starbucks, yes, and Walgreens, too. But also family-owned B&Bs, boat rental shacks, tackle shops, and the Original Ghost Tours—and its knock-offs. In Miami, Route 1 encounters another 85,000 firms.4 Miami-Dade County boasts over 400,000.5 One of these is Ryder System, Inc., whose yellow rental trucks have moved Americans and their belongings across the nation’s highways for decades. Jim Ryder’s first truck was a Model A Ford, acquired in 1933 with a $35 down payment to haul concrete. Diversifications , innovations, and acquisitions later, Ryder System today focuses on commercial clients and posts annual revenues in excess of $6 billion while AMERICAN MADE 53 employing over 25,000 people. Around the corner from Ryder headquarters is Elete Salon & Spa, whose website advertises men’s haircuts for $15. A day’s drive north of Miami, Route 1 enters North Carolina and the Research Triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, a dynamic ecosystem of universities and technology and life sciences companies that has proven staunchly recession-resilient. The anchor of the area is...


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